Books and Movies Reviews

The California Dream in Nathanael West;s The Day of the Locu

All four of West's novelsare in some way or another a reaction to the Great Depression. Of these four novels, The Day of the Locust has been the most influential. At the time of its publication, it was not appreciated very much, nor was it understood. It was not until the 1950s that it became a valued novel, and nowadays it is regarded as one of the best Hollywood novels ever.
In The Day of the Locust, West makes clear that besides the American Dream, there is also a California Dream. The two are closely linked together. According to the Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture, the American Dream is "the idea that the US is a place where everyone has the chance of becoming rich and successful."The California Dream, however,is more or less the "Hollywood image", anyone can make it in Hollywood. Jim Tejani explains in his essay: "Into this admixture of cultural tumult, West arrived in 1938. Its mood and nuance were to become the subject of his life's final work, initially entitled "The Cheated" but renamed The Day of the Locust."By the time West started writing the novel, he had not been living in California for a long period of time, but his impressions must have been so striking that he was able to judge it quite strongly. West's commentary on the California Dream is the main theme of the novel, it brings an apocalyptic message. Tejani also has a view on this: "Observing the ascendant film and mass cultures of the thirties, West confronted in California the empty promise of consumerism and predicted that the resulting alienation and boredom would midwife society’s destruction.;
Turning to the novel itself, the apocalyptic message is very much present. The title of the novel reveals much of this. The Longman Dictionary explains that the locust is
;an Asian and African insect which flies […] in large groups, eating and destroying crops over …

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