Summary and Analysis Chapter 18


This chapter delays the action while West elaborates his satire on Hollywood artificiality and shallowness. The only important plot material is the information that Faye has left her apartment and that Tod is anxious to find her. Seeing her from his office window, he follows her across a jumble of movie sets but loses sight of her. This juxtaposition implies that Tod's pursuit of Faye is as meaningless as Hollywood's sham world. Tod walks through a series of sets, one after another, and all strikingly different. He perceives in them the jumbled wreckage of civilizations that still provides material for Hollywood's dreams. His potential use of these images for bizarre and satirical paintings shows Tod's combined fascination with, and repulsion for, the decaying civilization which Hollywood represents. The elaborate account of the collapse of an unfinished set for a movie about Napoleonic warfare suggests a contrast between the great actions of history and Hollywood's shabby imitations, but, more likely, West is emphasizing that the real world and Hollywood's fantasy merge indistinguishably. Napoleon's historically unsuccessful charge and the Hollywood charge up the unfinished set symbolize humanity's stupid blundering towards disaster, which foreshadows the novel's ending. West is laughing at these clumsy antics, and his humorous treatment extends into the next chapter's delineation of the joy of the minor actors over the compensation they will collect for their injuries.

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