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The Day of the Locust

Nathanael West


Chapters 4–5

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Chapters 4–5

Chapters 4–5

Chapters 4–5

Chapters 4–5


Chapter 4

Claude Estee makes a good living as a screenwriter, and his house is a replica of a well-known Southern mansion. Tod arrives at the party to find Claude standing on his porch, acting the role of a Southern gentleman, addressing his Chinese servant as if he were black. A small man with a nondescript body, Claude always dresses elaborately, as though in costume. Claude urges Tod not to leave the party early, as they will all be going to a brothel afterwards.

Tod greets Claude's wife, Alice. Alice introduces him to Joan Schwartzen, a tennis champ with a young face that clashes with her noticeably aged neck. Mrs. Schwartzen claims to "adore" brothels and "smut," and demands that Tod escort her over to the group of men who she is convinced are having a "dirty" conversation.

Tod and Mrs. Schwartzen stop briefly by the group of men, who are actually discussing the business of making films. They then walk around to the garden. Mrs. Schwartzen delightedly shows Tod the life-size rubber horse that Claude's wife has placed in the pool as a joke. Mrs. Schwartzen fakes anger at Tod and others who are not fooled by the horse because such people will not let her "cherish [her] illusions." Tod abandons Mrs. Schwartzen and returns to the porch where the men are still discussing film—specifically the rich but stupid men who run the film industry.

Tod takes Claude aside to say goodnight but his host will not let him leave. They go into the library and drink scotches. Claude tries to impress upon Tod the high quality of Audrey Jenning's brothel. Tod enjoys bantering with Claude, and claims that although Mrs. Jenning may be adept at presentation, he finds brothels just as depressing as all other "places for deposit," such as banks and tombs. Claude riffs off of Tod's imaginative connection and then Tod presents Claude with another image: that being attracted to a girl is like carrying an object that does not fit easily into your pocket. Claude happily riffs off of this image as well, and then reassures Tod that his creative connections are good, but that they would not film well because the general public wants "amour and glamour." The Chinese servant comes in to tell Claude that everyone is ready to go to Mrs. Jenning's.

Chapter 5

Claude drives Tod down Sunset Boulevard to the call-house operated by Mrs. Jenning, who is a retired silent film actress. Claude explains that Mrs. Jenning does not keep her girls at her house; instead, she telephones them with assignments and takes half of their thirty-dollar fee to pay for her luxurious house and a chauffeur for the girls. Mrs. Jenning only takes wealthy, distinguished men for customers and insists on meeting them first. She is a refined woman who prefers to discuss matters of culture, such as literature.

Claude, Tod, and the rest arrive at Mrs. Jenning's. Mrs. Jenning takes them into a drawing room, where they take seats as a man works with a film projector. In response to Mrs. Schwartzen's question, Mrs. Jenning explains that they will watch the charming film "Le Predicament de Marie." While the man continues to work on the projector, Mrs. Schwartzen begins stomping her feet and whistling; the others join in the imitation of an impatient audience.

Test Your Understanding with the Chapters 4–5 Quiz

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Test Your Understanding with the Chapters 4–5 Quiz



What role does Claude Estee act out in his day-to-day life?
Southern gentleman
Vaudeville clown
Test Your Understanding with the Chapters 4–5 Quiz

Chapters 4–5 QUIZ

Test Your Understanding with the Chapters 4–5 Quiz

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In the resume of ch. 11 you state that Harry was trying to sell shoe polish - not true!

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