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Encyclopedia > The Day of the Locust
The Day of the locust

1939 first edition cover
Author Nathanael West
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Random House
Publication date May 16, 1939
Media type print, Hardcover, Paperback
Pages 238 p.
ISBN 978-0451523488

The Day of the Locust is a 1939 novel by American author Nathanael West, set in Hollywood, California during the Great Depression, depicting the alienation and desperation of a disparate group of individuals whose dreams of success have effectively failed. Image File history File links Metadata No higher resolution available. ... Nathanael West (October 17, 1903 – December 22, 1940) was the pen name of US author, screenwriter and satirist Nathan Wallenstein Weinstein. ... In political geography and international politics, a country is a political division of a geographical entity, a sovereign territory, most commonly associated with the notions of state or nation and government. ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... A publisher is a person or entity which engages in the act of publishing. ... // Random House is a publishing house based in New York City. ... Year 1939 (MCMXXXIX) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article may require cleanup. ... ISBN-13 represented as EAN-13 bar code (in this case ISBN 978-3-16-148410-0) The International Standard Book Number, ISBN, is a unique[1] commercial book identifier barcode. ... Year 1939 (MCMXXXIX) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ... Nathanael West (October 17, 1903 – December 22, 1940) was the pen name of US author, screenwriter and satirist Nathan Wallenstein Weinstein. ... Greetings from Hollywood Hollywood is a district of the city of Los Angeles, California, U.S.A., that extends from Vermont Avenue on the east to just beyond Laurel Canyon Boulevard above Sunset and Crescent Heights Boulevards on the west; the north to south boundary east of La Brea Avenue... The Great Depression started after October 29, 1929, known as Black Tuesday. ...


The novel was adapted for the screen in 1975. The Day of the Locust is a 1975 film based on the 1939 novel by American author Nathanael West, set in Hollywood, California during the Great Depression, depicting the alienation and desperation of a disparate group of individuals whose dreams of success have effectively failed. ... Year 1975 (MCMLXXV) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar. ...


Major characters

The characters in West's novel represent the actors, artists, businessmen, dreamers and vagabonds West met while working as a screenwriter in 1930s Hollywood. And so, all of the characters in Day are outcasts who have come to Hollywood in search of something or another. 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). West's characters are Hollywood stereotypes, and West's portrayal of these stereotypes is most often absurdly hyperbolic.


The novel's protagonist, Tod Hackett (a play on the German word for "death" and the tendency of Hollywood insiders to refer to their writers and artists as "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." Tod's painting, then, is a metaphor for West's novel, marking Tod Hackett as representative of West himself. This article does not cite any references or sources. ...


Over the course the novel, we are introduced to several minor characters, each corresponding to a given Hollywood trope. There is Harry Greener (the fading Vaudevillian) and his daughter, Faye (the starlet), Claude Estee (the big-time producer), Homer Simpson (the hopelessly clumsy "everyman" — an unfortunate, uncouth ‘Schlemiel’ like Lemuel Pitkin in A Cool Million with a touch of Miss Lonelyhearts' crypto-religious manic-depression; the name of the animated character Homer Simpson be an homage), Abe Kusich (the diminutive, yet vicious gangster), Earle Shoop (the cowboy) and Miguel the Mexican (his sidekick), Adore Loomis (the child star/prima donna) and his mother (the doting stage-mother). Homer Jay Simpson (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) is a fictional character in the animated television series The Simpsons. ... A Cool Million: The Dismantling of Lemuel Pitkin is Nathanael Wests third novel, published in 1934. ... Miss Lonelyhearts, published in 1933, is Nathanael Wests second novel. ... Manic depression, with its two principal sub-types, bipolar disorder and major depression, was first clinically described near the end of the 19th century by psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin, who published his account of the disease in his Textbook of Psychiatry. ... Homer Jay Simpson (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) is a fictional character in the animated television series The Simpsons. ... For a description of the medieval homage ceremony see commendation ceremony Homage is generally used in modern English to mean any public show of respect to someone to whom you feel indebted. ...


The narrative voice follows either Tod or Homer through most of Day, with the reader experiencing the bizarre and grotesque world of 1930s Hollywood through their eyes. The novel is essentially episodic, with each episode either introducing a character or highlighting interactions between one character and another. These interactions are just as cliché as the characters; at one point in the novel, Abe picks a fight with Earle; at another, Harry shows up at Homer's doorstep, desperately trying to sell him silver polish. Tod, Claude, Homer, Abe, Earle and Miguel all pursue Faye in turn; each in their own stereotypic manner.


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. 

Referenced in

The Works of Nathanael West
Novels The Dream Life of Balso SnellMiss LonelyheartsA Cool MillionThe Day of the Locust
Short Stories Business Deal • The Imposter • Western Union Boy • Mr. Potts of Pottstown • The Adventurer • Three Eskimos • Tibetan Night
Poetry Burn the Cities
Plays Good Hunting (with Joseph Schrank) • Even Stephen (with S.J. Perelman)
Screenplays
(in collaboration with others, unless noted otherwise)
Republic Productions Ticket to ParadiseFollow Your HeartThe President's MysteryGangs of New YorkJim Hanvey - DetectiveRhythm in the CloudsLadies in DistressBachelor GirlBorn to be WildIt Could Happen to YouOrphans of the StreetStormy Weather
Columbia The SquealerA Cool Million (a screen story; never filmed)
RKO Pictures Five Came BackMen Against the Sky (solo screenwriting credit) • Let's Make Music (solo screenwriting credit) • Before the Fact (never filmed) • Stranger on the Third Floor
Universal Studios I Stole A Million (solo screenwriting credit) • The Spirit of Culver

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