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The Day of the Locust

Nathanael West

Character Analysis Faye Greener

Faye's first name suggests fairy lightness, and her last name suggests the green freshness of nature. Her true character is a parody of these qualities. Faye is a seventeen-year-old platinum blonde who possesses a mature body and outward-pointing breasts and sharply beckoning buttocks. She often dresses like a child, emphasizing her teasing offer of forbidden sex to the men who look at her. She has been trained by her father to think of herself as a theatrical performer and to act with a maximum of artificiality. Faye is in accord with the American illusion that ambition and will are the equivalent of talent. Although she has no real acting ability, she may not really be unintelligent, for in her milieu, using her brain could serve no purpose. Self-criticism would only lower the defenses she must maintain against the predatory Hollywood world. She needs complete faith in all her pretensions, and, as Tod sees it, her false self has actually become her real self. Faye senses that people are judged mainly by their presumptions and assurance — by the "fronts" they manage to put up — so she acts as if wish and word are as good as fact and deed. She derives pleasure from her power to manipulate men, and she may be vaguely aware that her real talents are not artistic, but sexual. Possibly, she is a virgin early in the novel, but she is strongly sexed, and she couples with Miguel much like an animal. Before this, she was a prostitute for a short time, but emerged unscarred, because she was able to make the sexual act entirely a role. She seems somewhat sadistic in her relationship with her father and also with Tod, but when she grows bored and irritated with Homer, she becomes viciously sadistic. If the emotional cost is small, Faye is able to make half-hearted gestures of fellowship and good will, partly because she is confident of her ability to survive. Her disappearance from the novel's action makes it hard to come to a final judgment of her character, but Tod's assessment of Faye as a survivor (he likens her to a cork dancing on waves that could sink ships) seems reasonable.