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The Day of the Locust

Nathanael West

Chapters 9–10

Chapters 7–8

Chapters 11–12

Summary

Chapter 9

Homer got out of the tub feeling "stupid and washed out," as he usually does after any surge of emotion. He dressed slowly and then walked fearfully to Hollywood Boulevard for food and to have something to do so that he would not fall back asleep. On the way, a beggar asked Homer for a nickel, but he meekly denied the request. The beggar pestered him, however, so he quickly dropped some coins on the sidewalk and ran away.

Homer entered the well-lit SunGold Market. There were colored spotlights in the market that made all the natural colors look even brighter than normal. Homer bought several canned goods and some crackers for dinner. He began walking home, but hesitated as the well-lit street turned into the darker, steep path back to Pinyon Canyon. Not seeing anyone else traveling this way, Homer decided to take a cab.

Chapter 10

Homer rarely did anything in his new home aside from make himself meals. Nonetheless, he rarely felt bored because the forty years of his life had been almost entirely uneventful. One day, however, he cut his hand opening a can for lunch. Homer's normal facial expression did not change while his other hand picked up the injured hand and washed it.

Homer spent the time he was not making meals sitting in his back yard in the sun with a book in his lap that he did not read. In his chair he faced the garage and some garbage, but never thought to change his position to look at his view of the canyon or the city. Homer watched a lizard sit on a cactus and catch flies that came near the cactus' single yellow flower. Homer sympathized with the flies, though he never thought to make noise or otherwise warn the flies of the lizard that stalked them. He simply laughed whenever the lizard missed a fly. Like a plant, Homer was neither happy nor sad after that his painful memories had receded.

Analysis

Chapters 9 and ten drive home the fact that Homer's new existence upon moving to California is a listless one. Unlike others who have come to California in search of a better life, a film career, or some other dream, Homer's only goal at this point in his life has been to find Miss Martin after she left the hotel. This goal failed before he came to California on doctor's orders. Perhaps because of this, Homer does not fit into his new surroundings very well. The California environment in Chapters 9 and 10 comes across as hostile—belligerent beggars, dazzlingly bright supermarkets, uninviting cactus plants, and brutal food-chains of lizards and flies. Homer shrinks from his surroundings accordingly, operating in a state of near-panic anytime he is outside his house. He implicitly rejects the hyper-colors of the SunGold Market, buying only bland and drab-colored foods such as sardines and mushroom soup. He seems, at least subconsciously, to recognize his status as an outsider or underdog in his constant hope that the flies will escape the predatory lizard.

While Chapter 8 focuses on Homer's memory of Miss Martin, Chapters 9 and 10 seem less privy to the inner workings of Homer's consciousness. We are told that it "must have hurt" when Homer cut his hand, but because of his lack of expression, it is "hard to say" whether Homer he was happy or not. It is unclear whether the third-person narrator merely does not have access to Homer's thoughts and feelings, or whether Homer simply has no thoughts or feelings at all. The text sometimes points to the latter, as in the descriptions of Homer's attempts to block out the painful memory, his decision to sleep as much as possible, and his vegetable existence in general. Although Homer is a passive victim, especially in his new environment, it becomes difficult to sympathize with him, as he does not seem to consciously register his victim status.

Although there appears to be little to know about Homer, the details about his past and the vignettes of his lonely days alone do provide information about him, and cause us to realize that, at this point in the novel at least, we know even less about Tod Hackett. Although Tod's consciousness does stand at the center of the novel—indeed, the language of Tod's consciousness even bleeds into these sections about Homer—we do not know many personal details about Tod and rarely see him alone. In comparison to Homer, Tod appears to be more of a narrator than protagonist, as he does not often affect the people around him or make events happen. In this light, we may now view Homer, rather than Tod, as the novel's protagonist.

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