The Day of the Locust By Nathanael West Character Analysis Homer Simpson

Homer's first name suggests that he is a misplaced hometown boy and points towards his plan to return home at the novel's end. His last name emphasizes his simplicity. This forty-year-old retired hotel bookkeeper, however, is not an ordinary, simple homeboy. He is a grotesque figure of repressed and dangerous sexuality. Many critics have noted his similarity to Wing Biddlebaum, the protagonist of Sherwood Anderson's story "Hands," in the novel Winesburg, Ohio. Wing Biddlebaum has been a schoolteacher who was almost lynched because he could not keep his hands from wavering over his male students; he lived and died in social isolation. Quite possibly, West borrowed the symbolic, aggressive sexual wavering of Homer's hands from this source, but Anderson's character is more sensitive and receives a more sympathetic treatment.

Homer Simpson is infantile, automaton-like, and repressed, but the reader does not learn how he got that way. Back in Wayneville, Iowa, Homer was the same timid, compliant, somnambulistic person he is now, but he does not seem to have been typical of Wayneville's population. If Homer is a victim of those American sexual repressions that are paired with lustful Hollywood dreams, West has not dramatized the idea, except perhaps by implying a parallel between Homer's repressed violence and the violence that breaks out in the Hollywood mob. When Homer's aggressions at last burst, he becomes murderous.

In his guise of daddy-figure to the exploitative Faye, Homer is easier to sympathize with than in his role of the sex-driven pursuer of Romola Martin and Faye Greener. West emphasizes that Homer knows that he will be destroyed if his passions lead to sexual acts, and even the mere witnessing of Faye's lovemaking with Miguel is enough to produce disaster. Hollywood is dangerous for Homer. He would have been far safer (and, perhaps, happier) living out his sleep-walking life in the quiet of Wayneville, Iowa. Homer is a very clever portrait of a type, but it is hard to see him as a representative American except in his naive capacity for lying to himself about Faye — and in his tendency to think the best of everyone. Probably he is intended to represent the simple, unsophisticated American, as opposed to the more explicitly violent people who line the Hollywood streets in order to flock to its cults.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

Abe Kusich's background includes everything but which one of the following?




Quiz