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The Day of the Locust

Summary

Chapters 4–5

Summary Chapters 4–5

The film features a young maid and the family for whom she works. All the members of the family desire Marie, but Marie only desires the young daughter. As Marie prepares to go to bed, each of the family members comes to her room. She lets each of them in and then hides each of them as the next knock comes. After they are all in the room, hidden, another knock comes. Just before the identity of the final knocker is revealed, the film projector jams. The group heckles the young man in charge of the projector.

Tod leaves the room and heads to the patio for air. After coming back inside, he inspects several of the rooms, noticing in one of them a glass cabinet filled with tiny dog figurines. Tod hears a girl's voice singing and recognizes the voice—it is Mary Dove, one of Faye's best friends. Tod wonders if Faye works for Mrs. Jenning as well, because if so, he could have her for only thirty dollars. Tod returns to the drawing room for the rest of the film.

Analysis

The bulk of The Day of the Locust focuses on the underside of the Hollywood population in the 1930s: untalented movie extras, prostitutes, bookies, and unemployed vagrants. Chapters 4 and 5 give us our only glimpse of a more well-to-do lifestyle and the people who live it&mdsah;people with whom Tod could clearly be socializing, but typically does not, for some reason.

Claude Estee and his house and party continue the theme of masquerade. Claude pretends to be a Southern gentleman to match the style of his Southern mansion, and Mrs. Estee has had a life-sized rubber horse put into their pool for the amusement of the guests. Though seemingly comic, these illusions have a sinister edge. Claude's role-playing use of the epithet "you black rascal" becomes even edgier and more loaded because his servant is actually Chinese. The reproduction of a dead horse, lying with its legs up and a "distended belly" on the bottom of the pool, is a horrific version of a party trick. The most sinister element of the party, however, is Mrs. Schwartzen's constant shrill demands for such ghastly illusions. Mrs. Schwartzen pretends to become angry or begin crying when others dispel her playful expectations, but her acting is over-the-top, making her garish and aggressive.

Mrs. Schwartzen's fascination with seedy sexuality adds to the sort of perverse, near animalistic sexual desire that hovers around the women introduced thus far in the novel. Interestingly, the animalistic desire and near violence is never directly attributable to the women themselves. Vulgarity is introduced with Abe Kusich's sexual jokes and talk about his old girlfriend in Chapter 2. Though Tod feels violent desire for Faye, Faye herself is not possessed by perverse sexuality—more vaguely, she represents it, with her "swordlike legs." Here, too, Mrs. Schwartzen seems to be playacting a desire for perversion. This act feeds off of those around her, especially the audience at Mrs. Jenning's. The women we have seen so far, then, act as conduits of or containers for animalistic sexuality on the part of men, rather than the sources of such sexuality themselves.

Tod's conversation with Claude Estee at the end of Chapter 5 indicates the similarities between the two men. Both hold themselves slightly superior to most Hollywood people and the audiences of Hollywood films—though Claude is not above trafficking in Hollywood film and producing material suitable for the illusion-craving audiences. Claude and Tod trade metaphorical jokes—intellectualized, ironic entertainment that reaches the level of metaphor and distinguishes them from the entertainment of mass culture, which involves only sincerity and straightforward plot lines. Tod admires Claude because Claude's particular type of humor allows him to engage himself with Hollywood and its circles, yet maintain some level of distance and superiority in the guise of "moral indignation." Tod's admiration again points back to his own painting and his attempt to use this painting to maintain the distance of critical study between himself and the Hollywood atmosphere. This distance is reinforced by moments such Tod's self-removal from the pornographic film and mock riot at Mrs. Jenning's. In turn, the distanced positions Claude and Tod enjoy invite a connection to the role of audience member or commentator.