The Day of the Locust By Nathanael West Summary and Analysis Chapter 8

This chapter is devoted entirely to Homer Simpson and is divided into two parts: first, there is an elaborate description of Homer as he awakens after a late afternoon nap, and then a long retrospect to the traumatic incident when he was a hotel clerk in Iowa, an incident that disturbed his life enough to propel him into illness and impromptu retirement in California. A dramatization of Homer's experiences from his own point of view is subtly combined with metaphorical and analytic observations by the authorial voice. Homer is initially characterized in a scene that pictures his efforts to awaken his mind and body, especially his hands. Homer is essentially passive, but he is capable of being stirred. His slowly awakening hands represent his sexual and aggressive nature, which is the unconscious part of him. Just as immersion in cold water "awakens" his hands, immersion of his body in hot water awakens his most precious and intense memories.

Homer is a compulsive, sex-starved bachelor. His secret self was awakened by his tense encounter with the prostitute Romola Martin, and he seems to think about her every day, without realizing the significance of his memory, except to intuit that the present meaninglessness of his life is centered around it. Homer's somnambulistic behavior is a defense against the kind of feelings which Romola Martin aroused in him, and his automaton-like behavior makes him resemble that segment of people in Hollywood who have been labeled by Tod as "the people who stare." In the incident with Romola Martin, the mousy Homer allows himself to be pushed around by the hotel room clerk, the manager, and even the housekeeper. When he confronts Miss Martin with her past-due bill, he is also being manipulated, a victim of his fears and his repressed sexual desires. He runs away, but not before making clumsily violent gestures towards Miss Martin. This foreshadows Homer's later crazy, obsessive, and violent behavior, and it also helps explain why he can only be comfortable in a non-physical relationship with Faye Greener. Although Homer is partly a film stereotype of the mousy person who later commits a crime, there is something genuinely sinister about him.

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