The Day of the Locust

The Day of the Locust
The Day of the Locust  
West locust.jpg
1939 first edition cover
Author(s) Nathanael West
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Novel
Publisher Random House
Publication date May 16, 1939
Media type Print (Hardcover, Paperback)
Pages 238 pp
ISBN 978-0451523488
OCLC Number 22865781

The Day of the Locust is a 1939 novel by American author Nathanael West, set in Hollywood, California during the Great Depression, its overarching themes deal with the alienation and desperation of a broad group of odd individuals who exist at the fringes of the Hollywood movie industry.

In 1998, the Modern Library ranked The Day of the Locust #73 on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. Time magazine included the novel in its list of 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005,[1] and noted critic Harold Bloom included it in his list of canonical works in the book The Western Canon


Plot summary

The book follows a young man named Tod Hackett who thinks of himself as a painter and artist, but who works in Hollywood as a costume designer and background painter. He falls in love with Faye Greener, an aspiring starlet who lives nearby. Between his work in the studio and his introduction to Faye's friends, he is soon interacting with numerous Hollywood hangers-on, including a cowboy who lives in the hills above the studios and works as an extra in cowboy movies, his Mexican friend who keeps fighting cocks, and Homer Simpson, a hapless businessman whom Faye is taking advantage of. The book ends with a riot at a movie premiere.

Biblical allusions

The original title of the novel was The Cheated.[2] The title of West's work is likely a biblical allusion to certain passages in the Old Testament. Susan Sanderson writes:

The most famous literary or historical reference to locusts is in the Book of Exodus in the Bible, in which God sends a plague of locusts to the pharaoh of Egypt as retribution for refusing to free the enslaved Jews. Millions of locusts swarm over the lush fields of Egypt, destroying its food supplies. Destructive locusts also appear in the New Testament in the symbolic and apocalyptic book of Revelation. West's use of the locust in his title, then, calls up images of destruction and a land stripped bare of anything green and living. Certainly, the novel is filled with images of destruction: Tod Hackett's painting entitled "The Burning of Los Angeles," his violent fantasies about Faye, and the bloody result of the cockfight, just to name a few. A close examination of West's characters and his selective use of natural images, which include representations of violence and impotence — and which are therefore contrary to popular images linking nature and fertility — reveals that the locust in the title refers to the character of Tod.[3]

Symbols and metaphors

James F. Light has suggested that West's use of mob violence in the novel was an expression of a generalized anxiety about the rise of fascism in Europe. Light also suggests that West may have written into the novel a more personal anxiety about his marginalized role as a Jew in America.[4]


All of the characters are outcasts who have come to Hollywood in search of a fulfillment of some dream or wish: "The importance of the wish in West's work was first noted by W.H. Auden, who declared (in one of the interludes in The Dyer's Hand) that West's novels were essentially "parables about a Kingdom of Hell whose ruler is not so much a Father of Lies as a Father of Wishes"."[5] In this respect, Light suggests that Day falls in with a general project that pervades West's fiction: namely, exposing certain hopeful narratives that pervade modern American culture as frauds.[6]

As some critics point out, West's novel was a radical challenge to modernist literature. Modernists set themselves up in opposition to mass culture; West depicts it and makes it an integral part of the novel.[7]

Furthermore, West's usage of grotesque imagery, and situations, firmly establishes this novel as a work of Juvenalian satire. His fierce critique of Hollywood, and the mentality of the masses, depicts an America that is both sick with vanity, while also harboring a malignant sense of perversity.


For the most part, West's characters are intentionally shallow and iconic, and "…derive from all the B-grade genre films of the period…" (Simon, 523)[8] West's characters are Hollywood stereotypes, what Light calls "grotesques".[9] The novel's protagonist, Tod Hackett (whose first name likely derives from the German word for death and whose last name refers to a common epithet for Hollywood screenwriters and artists, who were pejoratively called "hacks"), is a set painter who aspires to artistic greatness. In the first chapter of the novel, the narrative voice announces: "Yes, despite his appearance, Tod was really a very complicated young man with a whole set of personalities, one inside the other like a nest of Chinese boxes. And 'The Burning of Los Angeles', a picture he was soon to paint, definitely proved he had talent."[citation needed]

Over the course of the novel, we are introduced to several minor characters, each corresponding to a given Hollywood trope. There is Harry Greener, the fading vaudevillian; his daughter, Faye, a starlet; Claude Estee the successful screen writer; Homer Simpson the hopelessly clumsy "everyman"; Abe Kusich, a gangster; Earle Shoop the cowboy; Miguel, Shoop's Mexican sidekick; Adore Loomis, a precocious child actor, and Loomis's doting stage mother.


In 1975, a film of the same name, based on the novel was made, starring William Atherton as Tod Hackett, Donald Sutherland as Homer Simpson, Burgess Meredith as Harry Greener, Karen Black as Faye Greener, Geraldine Page as evangelist "Big Mama", Jackie Earle Haley as Adore Loomis, and Gloria LeRoy as Mrs. Loomis.

Pop culture

The book is mentioned in Y the Last Man, whose main character describes it as "the greatest novel of all time".[citation needed]

The Pop Chronicles documentary includes an excerpt dramatically read by Thom Beck.[10]

It has been assumed that The Simpsons creator Matt Groening named his most famous character, Homer Simpson, after his own father. However, in several interviews given in 1990, Groening reportedly stated that he named the character after the Homer in this novel, although neither explanation is considered definitive.[11]

The Manic Street Preachers song "Peeled Apples" features a line that references Day of the Locust. The line reads "A dwarf takes his cockerel out on a cockfight".

Works cited

  • Simon, Richard Keller (1993). "Between Capra and Adorno: West's Day of the Locust and the Movies of the 1930s". Modern Language Quarterly 54 (4): p. 524. 



  1. ^ "All Time 100 Novels". Time. Retrieved May 25, 2010. 
  2. ^ Aaron, Daniel. "Review: Waiting for the Apocalypse" Hudson Review, Vol. 3, No. 4 (Winter, 1951), pp. 634-6
  3. ^ the day of the locust criticism: Web Search Results from
  4. ^ Light, James F. "Nathanael West and the Ravaging Locust", American Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Spring, 1960), pgs. 44-54
  5. ^ Barnard, Rita. "'When You Wish Upon a Star': Fantasy, Experience, and Mass Culture in Nathanael West" American Literature, Vol. 66, No. 2 (June 1994), pgs. 325-51
  6. ^ Light, James F. "Violence, Dreams, and Dostoevsky: The Art of Nathanael West" College English, Vol. 19, No. 5 (February 1958), pgs. 208-13
  7. ^ Jacobs, The Eye's Mind: Literary modernism and visual culture, pg. 243 ff
  8. ^ Simon, Richard Keller (1993). "Between Capra and Adorno: West's Day of the Locust and the Movies of the 1930s". Modern Language Quarterly 54 (4): pg. 524
  9. ^ Light, "...Ravaging Locust"
  10. ^ Show 44 - Revolt of the Fat Angel: Some samples of the Los Angeles sound. [Part 4]: UNT Digital Library
  11. ^ Turner, Planet Simpson, pg. 77

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем написать реферат

Look at other dictionaries:

  • The Day of the Locust — In diesem Artikel oder Abschnitt fehlen folgende wichtige Informationen: Vollständige Handlung Du kannst Wikipedia helfen, indem du sie recherchierst und einfügst …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • The Day of the Locust (film) — Infobox Film name = The Day of the Locust caption = Original poster director = John Schlesinger producer = Jerome Hellman writer = Waldo Salt starring = Donald Sutherland Karen Black Burgess Meredith William Atherton music = John Barry… …   Wikipedia

  • The Day of the Locust —    Voir Le Jour du fléau …   Dictionnaire mondial des Films

  • Unto the Locust — Studioalbum von Machine Head Veröffentlichung 2011 Label Roadrunner Records Genre …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • The Dream Life of Balso Snell —   1931 first edition cover …   Wikipedia

  • The Emerson Theater — is an all age music venue located at 4634 E. 10th Street in the Little Flower neighborhood of Indianapolis, Indiana. The Emerson Theater hosts original local music Friday and Saturday nights every week and also hosts some regional/national acts.… …   Wikipedia

  • The Burning Red — Studioalbum von Machine Head Veröffentlichung 10. August 1999 Label Roadrunner Records …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • The Album Leaf — est un projet solo de Jimmy LaValle, qui a débuté en 1999 et qui se situe dans un genre post rock agrémenté de touches de musique électronique minimale et ambient, avec une influence certaine de la formation classique de ce pianiste. Comme… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Locust Lake State Park — Geobox Protected Area name = Locust Lake State Park native name = other name = other name1 = category local = Pennsylvania State Park category iucn = III image caption = A view of Locust Lake etymology type = Named for etymology = Locust Lake… …   Wikipedia

  • The Album Leaf — Infobox Musical artist Name = The Album Leaf Img capt =Jimmy Lavalle in Tokyo, 2006 Background = group or band Origin = San Diego, California, U.S. Instruments = Genre = Ambient, Post Rock Years active = 1998 Present Label = Sub Pop City Slang… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”