The Day of the Locust

by: Nathanael West

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

This was the final dumping ground. He thought of Janvier's "Sargasso Sea." Just as that imaginary body of water was a history of civilization in the form of a marine junkyard, the studio lot was one in the form of a dream dump. A Sargasso of the imagination!

This metaphor, from Chapter 18, refers to T. A. Janvier's In the Sargasso Sea (1898), a novel that concerns the mythical location in the ocean where all the ocean's debris supposedly collects. Earlier, observing Faye's imaginative process in Chapter 13, Tod makes an analogy to being backstage at a production—he is watching her imagination work from "backstage" and this makes him want to see that process succeed. The back lot of the studio represents, in a sense, the backstage of the backstage. The scenery of the back lot is no longer set in constant motion by stagehands. Here, the sets remain immobile in the jumbled, incongruous pile where they have been dumped. This dumping ground emphasizes the materiality of these stage sets: they are no longer the trappings that made fantasies into temporary realities in front of the camera, but are now once again reduced to the emptiness of their physical materials, "plaster, canvas, lath and paint." The ephemeral and disposable quality of these materials underscores the fragility of dreams and the hopelessness of the attempts at permanent escapism toward which Hollywood strives.