The Day of the Locust

by: Nathanael West

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Yet, despite his appearance, he was really a very complicated young man with a whole set of personalities, one inside the other like a nest of Chinese boxes.

This quotation, from Chapter 1, describes Tod's consciousness and offers insight into the way both his character and the narrative of The Day of the Locust work. The metaphor of nested boxes aptly describes the narration of the novel, by which a third person narrator enters and describes the workings of Tod's consciousness—and Homer's, though to a lesser extent. The narrative becomes complicated at times, as in Chapter 24, when the third-person narrator describes Tod's thoughts, which are in turn attempting to organize Homer's jumbled explanation of the events that took place after the party at his house. The metaphor of the boxes also evokes a sense of repression, as in the closing of boxes within oneself. Several characters in The Day of the Locust experience such repression: Tod does so explicitly in his decision to lock away his drawings of Faye in an attempt to forget her; Homer does so both explicitly, in his attempts to forget Miss Martin, and unwittingly, in the way his repressed sexual desire is expressed through the fidgeting of his hands. The image of the Chinese boxes invites us to ask what else Tod, Homer, and the narration, are repressing.