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The Day of the Locust

Nathanael West

Chapters 24–26

Chapters 22–23

Chapter 27

Summary

Chapter 24

Tod has woken up with a hangover, so he calls in sick to work and sleeps late. He then goes to see Homer, but no one answers the door at Homer's house. Tod sees a curtain move in one of the windows, however, so he decides to go around back and try the kitchen door. The kitchen door is open and Tod finds Homer sitting motionless in the living room, staring at the backs of his hands. Homer does not answer Tod's greeting or offer of coffee. Tod cleans up the living room and looks in Faye's room, which has been cleaned out. Tod then makes some coffee and brings Homer a cup. Homer tells Tod he is going back to Iowa and begins to sob rhythmically. Tod smokes, waiting in the corner of the living room until Homer calls for him. He comes to Homer's side and listens as the events of the past night come tumbling out of Homer in unordered bunches.

Tod reconstructs the story. After Homer left Tod outside, Homer came back in the back of the house and peeked into the parlor. He happily watched as Faye elegantly danced with Claude, then, less happily, watched as Faye danced with Earle. Earle forced several kisses on Faye. When she broke loose, she spotted Homer in the doorway and yelled at him for "spying on her." Faye went to her bedroom and Homer tried to explain, but she continued to call him names. Homer went into his room and got into bed, refusing to talk when Tod knocked at the door because he was tired. Homer heard all the noise of the fighting, but figured everything was alright because he heard Tod and Faye talking and Faye laughing.

When the house was quiet again, Homer went to Faye's room. She let him in, kissed him, forgave him, and called him "Daddy." Homer went back to sleep in his room, but woke up in the early morning because he heard Faye moaning. Thinking she was sick, he knocked on her door several times. He finally heard her say something so he went into the room, only to find Miguel and Faye naked in bed. Faye, seeing Homer, pulled a sheet over her head. Earle came to the back of the house and Homer told him that everything was fine, that Faye was just sick. Earle heard Faye's moans, however, and pushed into her room. Earle and Miguel began fighting and Homer dodged into Faye's room and locked her door. Faye kept the sheets over her head and refused to talk to him. When the fighting was over, Homer went back to his room and fell asleep. When he woke up, everyone, including Faye, was gone.

Chapter 25

Tod returns to the living room to check on Homer. Homer's body is now tightly curled in a fetal position. Tod remembers a picture from an abnormal psychology textbook he saw in college, a picture of a woman sleeping in the fetal position in a hammock. Underneath the photograph was the caption "Uterine Flight." The woman had been sleeping for many years, and doctors could wake her for only a few minutes at a time every few months. Tod wonders if he should call a doctor for Homer. Tod meditates on "what a perfect escape the return of the womb [i]s," and equates the womb with a hotel with a nine-month lease. Tod decides to go eat dinner, then return to check on Homer.

Chapter 26

Before dinner, Tod goes to Hodge's storefront to look for Earle and get news of Faye. Calvin stands out front along with an Indian who is wearing a sandwich board advertising a trading post. Calvin tells Tod that Earle stopped by earlier with two black eyes. Calvin and the Indian exchange opinions about the dangers and merits of keeping company with Mexicans such as Miguel. Tod tries to verify that Earle and Miguel fought over "Earle's girl," but Calvin says that Earle claimed the dispute was over money and that Earle had dumped Faye.

Tod walks away from Hodge's and wonders where Faye might be, thinking she is either with Miguel or back at Mrs. Jenning's. Tod is not worried about her, however, reasoning that "she [i]s like a cork" floating in stormy water, always coming out on top.

Tod stops in Musso Frank's restaurant and orders steak and scotch. He continues to think about Faye as a cork in the sea, eventually picked up on a deserted shore by a customer of Mrs. Jenning's. The waiter brings Tod the steak and Tod waves him away. Tod tries to similarly wave away his feelings towards Faye, his "itch" to have her, his fantasy to hit her with a bottle and rape her. Tod plays out in his mind a scenario in which he meets her on a dark road and gets ready to hit her with a bottle, but the waiter returns and interrupts his reverie. The waiter remains until Tod finally begins to eat his food, unable to restart the fantasy. No longer hungry for his steak, he asks for the bill.

Analysis

Chapter 24 gives us Homer's jumbled narration of the events of the previous night, as parsed together by Tod. The recount of these events, seen from Homer's point of view and reported to Tod, contains mainly surface detail. Homer shares his feelings, but his description of these feelings is inarticulate and childlike, leaving us without the analytic commentary we typically receive Tod's description of events. Homer's accidental discovery of Faye in bed with Miguel recalls his uncomfortable naïveté during the episode with Miss Martin in Iowa. The traumatic aftermath of this new situation, however, seems far worse than his memory of Miss Martin. The fact that Faye has affectionately referred to Homer as "Daddy" earlier in the night adds an element of perversion to his discovery of her having sex with another man. Additionally, the ensuing violence and Faye's desertion have left Homer nearly catatonic.

In the extremely short Chapter 25, Tod contemplates Homer in the fetal position and equates the womb fantasy with the perfect escape. However, Tod's metaphor of the womb—as a hotel in which accommodations last nine months—does not romanticize it as a mode of escape. Instead, the wryness of Tod's tone underscores the reality that a return to the womb is impossible and inconceivable. In light of the fact that Homer worked in a hotel for years, the womb metaphor also points to Homer's usual mode of shutting himself up, an odd, ineffective mode of escape. Indeed, Homer's body is straining, not relaxed.

Tod's image of Faye as a cork that "dances" over rough waters that sink larger objects recalls Tod's image of the Sargasso Sea in Chapter 18. Faye and her dreams will never end up in the clump of washed-up people and dreams because of the self-contained nature of her fantasies. Earlier in the novel, Tod imagines Faye as a figure struggling through muck, tempting him to shove her back down further instead of helping her. In this new metaphor of the cork and the sea, Faye floats out above the others rather than being weighed down. The self- sufficiency that gives Faye this immunity is the same self-sufficiency that has made Tod desire to break her and rape her, and it brings out these emotions in Tod again here. However, as Tod fantasizes about a rape scenario, the waiter, "fly-like," continues to check on him. Tod's rape fantasy dances away from him in the same ways that Faye does as a cork. Ultimately, Faye is immune even to Tod's violent fantasies.

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