Character Analysis Tod Hackett


Tod's name suggests that he is partly dead, through his first name's allusion to the German word for death, and his last name's implication that he is a hack artist, although the narrative itself indicates that he is both knowledgeable and talented. A recent graduate of the Yale School of Fine Arts, he is in his early twenties. Tod's large, sprawling, unattractive body reflects his lassitude of spirit as he succumbs to the Hollywood values that he criticizes. Also, his plainness assures that Faye Greener will reject his advances. West's authorial voice declares that Tod has a complex personality, and his contradictory attitudes reveal this complexity. He has a good deal of self-understanding, but its nature is never clarified. A sharp observer of Hollywood's artificiality and decadence, he usually reacts with a combination of pity and anger. But his sexual fascination with Faye Greener keeps him from judging her for her pretensions and amorality. He is taken in by her as the masses are taken in by the dreams that Hollywood purveys, and his submerged aggressions against Faye resemble their aggressions against the dream world (and dream country) that has cheated them.

In his friendship with Homer Simpson and Harry Greener, Tod is capable of understanding and pity, but he uses these men to maintain his contact with Faye, and he is ineffectual when he tries to help them. Tod seems aware that he has no chance to possess Faye (his claim that "once will be enough" emphasizes the symbolic self-destructiveness of the act). His continual pleading for her to go to bed with him makes him appear so weak that he provokes a refusal; thus, his pursuit of her seems deliberate self-torture. At the end, his self-knowledge is growing, but West's use of Tod's character and actions as symbolic parallels for the novel's main theme is not compatible with creating a character capable of much growth and change.

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