The Day of the Locust By Nathanael West Summary and Analysis Chapter 14

This chapter introduces two of Tod's more successful rivals for Faye's attention, and at the same time it further develops the theme of sex and violence which foreshadows later, explosive scenes. The first of these rivals is the stupid and wooden-faced cowboy, Earle Shoop, a bit-player in "horse operas" (western movies) whose reasons for spending his days standing in front of a saddlery store are never explained. He is probably another variation on "the people who stare" and is just hanging around because of boredom. Faye finds his shallow handsomeness attractive; she disregards Tod's judgment that Earle is stupid. Faye Greener, determined to be a movie star and forever dreaming of brilliant romances, enjoys the romantic companionship of this dolt, who seems destined, like her, never to realize the Hollywood dream. In fact, he is a passive movie-world hanger-on, living a role that Faye cannot admit is her own as well. Earle's inability to pay for a dinner, and the squalid camp in which he lives with Miguel, make explicit the poverty of Faye Greener's actual companions. Earle and his cowboy friends engage in some enigmatic joshing and practical joking which satirizes Hollywood's dream life and echoes the novel's violence.

When Tod and Faye arrive at Miguel's camp, the violent beauty of nature and of the fighting cocks helps set the scene for more sexual teasing. The trapping and eating of the quail is predatory, and Earle cuts up the birds with crude ruthlessness. Faye's sensibilities are offended, but in her own way she will soon behave as ruthlessly. Her phoniness is emphasized by her pleasure in eating the quail after she had shown disgust over their dismemberment only minutes earlier.

Faye had teased Tod by allowing Earle to kiss her passionately, and she will soon tease Earle by performing a kind of mating dance with Miguel. The description of the Mexican in earthy and exotic terms associates him with his beautiful and violent fighting cocks, and Faye is drawn to him. Miguel knows that he is cutting in on Earle with Faye, and his song about how the boys in Havana "love Tony's wife" functions as a threat to Earle and works as a flirtation with Faye. After Earle discovers that he can join the dance between Faye and Miguel only as an outsider, he furiously knocks Miguel unconscious. Tod has been watching in silence, and he now grabs at Faye, hoping to rape her, his third such impulse.

The chapter ends with Faye having driven on off alone and leaving Tod, alone, reflecting on details for his painting. Faye's flight portrays her as the successful teaser who won't face the consequences of her teasing and who may fear the violent sexuality that she is continually inciting. Unable to achieve relief by action, Tod projects his angry desires into images for his painting. Tod at first questions the accuracy of his prophecy that crazy Hollywood types will set the city and the country on fire, probably realizing that the painting represents his desires more than it shows his prophetic powers. But unable to stand this insight, he renews and revels in his convictions that Hollywood's values will create an apocalypse. In the meantime, Faye has escaped.

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