The Day of the Locust By Nathanael West Summary and Analysis Chapter 16

Harry Greener's death is reported from the viewpoints of both Tod and Faye. Tod learns of it from a hushed gathering outside the Greeners' apartment, which he enters to bestow his attentions on Faye. Tod's fresh awareness of her sexual appeal shows that his pursuit of Faye remains stronger than any true concern for Harry. He treats her with conventional pity, which is a mask for his urge to stay near her. Tod is quietly playacting, but Faye's playacting is more dramatic. She curses herself for killing her father, presumably by neglect, but her description of her last moments with him belie this concern. As she tells Mary Dove and Tod about her discovery of her dead father, we realize that when she came home and talked to him without waiting for answers, he was already a corpse. She joked about an old theatrical rival of his and continued to fix her face in the mirror even when she must have realized that the silent Harry was very sick, and then she went on to berate him for not being able to buy her a new dress to help her get a bit part in a movie being cast. Her indifference and mockery towards Harry while she didn't know he was dead, we realize, resemble her behavior while he was alive and healthy. Oblivious to the hypocrisy she has just revealed to Tod and Mary, Faye now presents a sobbing act about how much she misses him already, and what a tender father-daughter relationship they had.

The scene in which the pushy, cold janitor, Mrs. Johnson, insists that Faye give Harry a proper funeral serves several purposes. It emphasizes Faye and Harry's poverty, and it draws a contrast between Mrs. Johnson and Faye. Mrs. Johnson loves funerals and enjoys taking charge, but her morbid bossiness is almost refreshing in the face of Faye's maudlin self-deceptions. The situation also allows Tod to offer Faye financial assistance to keep her from working at Mrs. Jenning's to pay for the funeral expenses. But there is no real hope for Tod to be able to manipulate Faye into being grateful to him, for Faye's indifference is shown by her performing a fellow-trollop act with Mary, and so Tod is left out in the cold. Faye's declaration that she "was saving it" seems to imply that she is a virgin (that is the way Mary understands her), but it is probable that Faye means she was saving prostitution for a more desperate situation. Faye is willing to prostitute herself, but not to her admirer, Tod. She prefers to keep him dangling.

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