The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West Essay

The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West Essay

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The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West


In The Day of the Locust, Tod Hackett undergoes an internal development relative to his migration. Tod, an architect living in Connecticut, moves out to Hollywood to build scenery for movies. Yet, once he moves, Tod is transformed into a lethargic, non-artist who can no longer create his own drawings on paper. His surroundings drive these changes, as all characters in the novel are depicted in a similar fashion. Tod becomes one of the grotesque as well, laughing at the disturbing rather than the humorous. These new features signal Tod’s incapacity to return to his old self, as he constantly suffers from his migration. This comes full circle at the end of the novel when Tod is led away from the mob scene at the Hollywood premiere:

“He was carried through the exit to the back street and lifted into a police car. The siren began to scream and at first he thought he was making the noise himself. He felt his lips with his hands. They were clamped tight. He knew then it was the siren. For some reason this made him laugh and he began to imitate the siren as loud as he could.” (185)
This excerpt depicts Tod’s migration in full: from an active artist to a grotesque and lazy Californian who will never recover from his experience.

Tod’s movement into the police car parallels his transformation to laziness in Los Angeles. When the National Films talent scout carries him off to Hollywood to learn set and costume design, Tod disregards the unusual fact that he is “hired by telegram” rather than in person (60). This provides a clue early in the novel into the indolent nature of Los Angeles that will eventually cause his own laziness. Even after only three months of living in Hollywood, ...


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... artistic vision and the disorganization relating to the Hollywood mob. Ultimately, Tod can no longer recuperate from the brutal crowd and the cacophonous sound of the siren. Instead, he loses his artist status by conforming to the status quo, more specifically, becoming like all the people he wants to paint.

In The Day of the Locust, Tod Hackett evolves from an innovative architect to a lethargic imitator. Tod likens the other people in his painting of the destruction of Los Angeles to a grotesque, jarring mob. The final scene in the police car perfectly captures this transformation as the police carry a laughing, siren-screaming Tod off away from the Hollywood premiere. Unfortunately, Tod can never recover as his artistic abilities have been destroyed through migration. His migration is thus complete and final; he has truly become a hopeless Californian.

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