The Day of the Locust By Nathanael West Summary and Analysis Chapter 21

For his graphic and symbolic presentation of the cockfight in the driveway of Homer's garage, West assembles a large cast of characters. Earle, Miguel, and Tod arrive. Tod brings along Claude Estee, and the dwarf Abe Kusich is already present, playing his usual role of gambling tout and tough guy. Faye and Homer are nowhere to be seen, and in the next chapter we learn that they were inside Homer's house while the cockfight takes place, for it is natural that the timid Homer and the squeamish Faye would not want to witness a cockfight, although they are capable of provoking or watching its equivalent among human beings.

Before the cockfight begins, Abe tries to pick a fight with Earle, foreshadowing their fight in the next chapter, and Abe succeeds in bullying Tod. The cockfight itself foreshadows Miguel's and Earle's fight over Faye, which in turn echoes the scene of Faye's earlier, flirtatious dance with Miguel. The cockfight symbolizes sexual cruelty. "Hermano" means "brother" in Spanish, and the weaker and already damaged bird which is handled by its fellow underdog, Abe Kusich, sufficiently explains the ironic symbolism. Hermano may be the "brother" of Homer and Tod, but they show little of this creature's gallant courage. The symbolism is perhaps clearest in the fact that both of them are symbolically struck dead through the eye by Faye, as Hermano is struck dead by Juju.

The cockfight brings out a male camaraderie among the participants, as well as aggression. They fire off cruel insults at one another, but they all share admiration for the birds. Like everything else in Hollywood, the cockfight is something to be watched, but this passive activity doesn't fully satisfy the men. Their movement from staring at the cocks in this scene to fighting one another in the following chapters will foreshadow the violent explosion of Hollywood's morbid spectators at the novel's end.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

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




Quiz