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The Day of the Locust

Nathanael West

Chapters 11–12

Chapters 9–10

Chapters 11–12, page 2

page 1 of 3
Summary

Chapter 11

Homer had been living in his house for nearly a month when Harry Greener came to his house selling shoe polish. Homer tried to get Harry to leave, but Harry kept ringing the bell and asked for a glass of water. Homer let Harry in the house and gave him water. Harry did a bit of his clown routine and Homer laughed, knowing he was supposed to. Harry started in again, but felt suddenly ill, although he himself was not quite sure whether he was truly ill or merely acting ill.

Homer gave Harry more water, and Harry gave Homer a complimentary can of shoe polish in return. Homer asked how much the polish sells for. Harry said it costs fifty cents and then offered to give it to Homer for twenty-five cents. Homer protested, saying he could go to a store and buy a container twice as large for the same price. Harry acted hurt and got Homer to back down and apologetically buy two cans. In response, Harry tried out all of his laughs and settled on his "victim's laugh." Homer, uncomfortable, asked Harry to stop laughing, but Harry was now truly sick and could not stop.

Harry continued with another pantomime, making Homer nervous. Harry had a brief fit in which he ran through all his pantomime positions quickly, like a mechanical dance, before falling on the couch. After resting on the couch, Harry began to feel better and congratulated himself on his performance, thinking he could now get more money from Homer. He asked Homer for a drink and Homer brought a glass of port. He then asked Homer to bring in his case of shoe polish from the porch. Homer stepped outside and saw Faye standing outside. Faye asked for her father and sent a message for him to hurry up.

Back in the house, Homer asked Harry to leave. Harry was now just acting sick, and Homer became surprised at his audacity. But when Harry got up from the couch, he looked and felt faint. Homer went back outside to get Faye, who came in and seemed worried about Harry. Homer tried to avoid looking at Faye, who seemed beautiful to him because of her "vitality." Faye, however, clearly liked being looked at and executed her mannerisms for Homer like a dance.

Faye and Homer went into the kitchen to finish making the salmon salad Homer was going to eat for lunch. Homer watched as Faye quickly ate everything he offers her for lunch. They went back to the living room where Harry was now fully preoccupied with his illness, for once not even thinking about money. Faye leaned over her father, looking tragic. Harry reacted violently, annoyed with Faye's artificial sadness when he really was sick. Harry began laughing furiously, a practice Faye hated. Faye began singing and dancing to "Jeepers Creepers," which Harry hated just as much. When she finished, Harry unleashed his most awful, punishing laugh. Faye shook him angrily, finally punching him in the mouth, which silenced him.

Homer took Faye into the kitchen where she began sobbing. She went to the bathroom to clean her face and Homer checked on Harry, who was asleep. Homer gave Faye coffee and cookies. She sat down and told Homer about her aspirations to be a star and how acting ran in the Greener family. Homer merely nodded occasionally as she went on and on about the film industry.

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silver - not shoe polish

by anon_2223155894, March 03, 2015

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

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