Light, James F. "Nathaniel West and the Ravaging Locust." American Quarterly. Vol. 12, No. 1 (Spring 1960), pp.44-54. JSTOR. 9 Apr. 2008. <http://www.jstor.org/action/showArticle?doi=10.2307/2710189&Search=yes&term=faye&term=locust&item=1&returnArticleService=showArticle&ttl=424&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3Dfaye%2Blocust;gw%3Djtx;prq%3Dfayelocust;Search%3DSearch;hp%3D25>.
The main contention of the article is that fear is the strongest element in West’s novel The Day of the Locust. The author contends West conveys a sense of fear through the use of grotesqueness, violence and artificiality. However, the author contends the strongest symbol inciting fear is Tod’s “prophetic painting of the ravaging locust.” The article investigates the genesis of the novel in West’s early life and contends its inspiration came out of a fearful event in West’s life. Also, he speculates fear plays a strong part in West’s life as he grew up Jewish and did not fit entirely with any social group. The author begins to investigate various characters and concludes that their grotesqueness arises out of a need for an emotional life. He observes West does not depict the honest everyman in Hollywood, and concludes that on the fringes of the novel they sit as spectators while the main characters play the roles of performers. Finally, the author determines the everyman, represented by Homer, is torn between a passionless life and the doomed attempt to satisfy emotional need.
This article interestingly contends that the central concept of West’s book is a concept that I find all but completely absent from the film adaptation. Whereas in the book fear appears to play a constant role in the lives of the characters, the film paints them oblivious to the impending destruction around them as well as the sources of that destruction, astutely observed by the author as grotesqueness, artifice and violence. Violence constantly comes up through the film, but the sense of fear that accompanies it in the novel is strangely absent. Save for the riot that erupts just before the end of the film, fear does not play as strong of a role in the film as in West’s novel.