Summary and Analysis Chapter 13


This chapter returns to Tod's preoccupation with Faye, which will remain at the novel's dramatic center until Chapter 19, when Homer's fascination with Faye will reappear as the focus, interwoven with Tod's feelings for her. However, the reader can already see the similarity of Homer's and Tod's feelings for Faye. This chapter consists almost entirely of a scene between Tod and Faye in which Tod's view of her is dramatized and analyzed. Harry's illness gives Tod an excuse to visit Faye, a device used earlier by both Tod and Homer. Tod is a keen observer of Faye's affectations, but he tries to excuse them to justify his interest in her and also because they attract him. He thinks that Faye doesn't know how to act differently and that, perhaps, she is partly laughing at herself. Tod gives Faye the benefit of the doubt when he chooses to interpret her dealing herself fantasies like playing cards to mean "that any dream was better than no dream." Agreeing to listen to Faye's trite ideas for movie plots, Tod manages to keep irony from his voice because he knows that she is only making up dreams for herself. Faye is following the Hollywood cliché — selling dreams for money — when she asks Tod to write up her stories and sell them. A brief reference to her fantasies about spending her imagined earnings reveals Tod's ironical viewpoint, for he knows that her stories are worthless. In her South Sea Island movie plot, she places herself amidst riches and adventure and is condescending to a poor lover who may turn out to be a rich boy in disguise. Later, in a thinly sketched Cinderella story, she is a poor girl catapulted suddenly to a world of riches and splendor. Here, West is satirizing the tawdriness of Hollywood plots, and Faye as a person who feeds on them.

Tod continues to remain the spineless intellectual when he is with Faye. She amuses and encourages him, happy to have another admirer, but she will not respond to his sexual advances. Tod never thinks of helping Faye sharpen her perceptions. Although he sees that she is already a kind of victim, he is ready to make her another kind of victim as well. When, in Chapter 3, Tod contemplated her photograph, he thought of impaling himself on her. Now his desires are more rapacious. Infuriated by her self-containment and her refusal of him, he wants to crush her, revealing within himself a combination of sex and aggressiveness that resembles the trembling lust at the core of the vegetable-like Homer. But although Tod is aware of his impulses, he does not feel ashamed of them. His desire to rape Faye combines resentment with a need to intensify sexual excitement. Like Homer, Tod is, in his own way, locked within a passive but restive self. The chapter concludes with the novel's second description of Tod's painting, The Burning of Los Angeles; the description is presented in an active present tense, which implies that the painting will someday become a reality. His picture shows Tod's destructive lust for Faye as a part of the apocalypse which it predicts, but it is ambivalent about Faye's role. Seemingly, she is the target of the violence, but she is able to flee and escape the fury.

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