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The Day of the Locust Essay

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Nathanael West's The Day of the Locust tells the story of people who have come to California in search

of the American Dream. They travel west hoping to escape less than perfect lives and pursue success in

Hollywood. The characters in this novel dream of a life of luxury, having lots of money, and living

happily ever after. They eventually come to the realization that the seemingly picture perfect life that

California represents is not as easy to attain as they once thought. The characters in The Day of the

Locust grow discontented and disappointed with their lives and embittered towards the world, which

instigates the downfall of this lower level of Hollywood society. Todd Hackett, Faye Greener, and Homer

Simpson all depict failed attempts to achieve the American Dream.

Todd Hackett is a main character who lives with the continuous threat of failure while he

attempts to fulfill his personal dreams amongst the lower classes of Hollywood. Hackett comes to

California hoping for a career designing movie scenery, but he faces many obstacles that he must

overcome before he can move up in the Hollywood society. Todd's life begins to go downhill as he

associates more frequently with the lower levels of Hollywood society. This prevents him from climbing

the ladder of fame which he so desperately aspires to accomplish. He is shown a darker side of

Hollywood which plays with his emotions and distracts him from his goals. Hackett's main distraction is

his attraction to a girl named Faye Greener. He struggles to focus on different aspects of his life

unsuccessfully, but he cannot seem to ignore his incessant attraction to Faye. One example of this is a

scene when Todd is getting ready to go out, but "his eyes [keep] straying to the photograph...a picture of

Faye Greener" (67). As displayed in this quote, Todd's life is occupied with the need to be loved by

Faye. This compulsion eventually leaves Todd with feelings of failure and breaks him down. Faye

"could only love a handsome man and would only let a wealthy man love her" (67). Faye constantly

disregards Todd's feelings for her, slowly crushing his dream life. Faye's insincere discernment of love is

a prevalent example of Hollywood's degenerative impact upon those in search of materialistic success.

Todd's failed efforts to gain the love of Faye Greener characterize his downfall and failure to aspire to his

dreams and goals.

While continuing to pay no attention to Todd, Faye Greener strives to become famous among

the movie scene in Hollywood. Her beauty and allure are only surpassed by her rapaciousness and

materialism. A dim cognizance of these traits lead her to blame herself for her father's death. "I killed

him" (122), Faye exclaims realizing that she had once informed him that if he could not buy her what she

wanted that she would leave him to find someone who could. As Faye faces her guilt for her father's

demise, she furthermore sacrifices her moral beliefs when she works as a prostitute to afford her father's

funeral. Miss Greener's life strays more distant from her dreams as she finds herself being sucked

deeper into the Hollywood world of sex, drugs, and deceit. Faye's selfishness not only shatters her

dreams, but correspondingly plays with the emotions



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