The Day of the Locust By Nathanael West Summary and Analysis Chapter 20

This chapter begins the novel's final crescendo of violence, associated with sex, which will continue to mount until the apocalyptic final chapter. West analyzes incisively the deteriorating relationship between Homer and Faye, then graphically dramatizes it in the nightclub scene, where Tod's feelings towards Homer and Faye are made very plain. Homer's sexuality, and Faye's nasty reactions to it, parallel Tod's less obvious cringing, as well as his tolerant view of Faye. Faye is infuriated by Homer's behavior — partly because she likes the traditional macho man, a role that neither Homer nor Tod fits, and partly because she is ashamed of herself. She is also acting out her resentments about her career frustrations. Her grossest act is her forcing Homer to drink liquor, which shows her pleasure in emotional and sexual domination.

When Tod asks Faye to sleep with him, her refusal demonstrates her persisting in several roles. She is the prostitute who will have non-paying sex only with a man whom she loves, and — although she refuses gently — she enjoys putting Tod down, just as she enjoys deflating the superiority which she imagines that she sees in the puritanical Homer. The sleazy, disgusting nightclub scene is full of rampant sexuality as the characters watch a female impersonator, who later is unable to give an adequate performance as a man, just as are Homer and Tod. This incident gives Faye another chance to bait Homer as an ignorant hick, but Homer remains unwilling to offend Faye.

When Faye goes off to dance with another man, Homer and Tod's dialogue advances the plot and presents symbolic material. Tod learns that Earle Shoop and Miguel are now living in Homer's garage, where Miguel is housing his fighting cocks, along with a hen whose ugly scabrous condition shocks and disgusts Homer. Tod tries to get back at Faye by suggesting, unsuccessfully, that Homer kick out Earle and Miguel. Homer's loathing for the hen is a symbol of his disgust at sexual crudeness, and it reveals his own self-disgust. Again, sex is coupled with violence. The hen symbolizes Faye as she really is — a whore. Homer is frightened at the thought of losing Faye, but he remains angry with her for her treatment of him and because he senses her whorishness. Homer is the least predatory of the characters, but his self-destructiveness has its selfish aspects. He makes Faye feel guilty, thus helping to push her into the stereotyped behavior of the predatory woman.

Homer tolerates the squatters in his garage so he can preserve his relationship with Faye, even though he knows that it is doomed. His moderation leads Faye to soften her attitude towards Tod and invite him to a cockfight at Homer's place, an ominous scene prepared for by this chapter's description of the cocks and by Faye's bickering actions.

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