Study Guide

Claude Estee in The Day of the Locust

By Nathanael West

Claude Estee

Claude is the guy that Tod wishes he could be. Having reached success in the film industry without losing his disdain for the Man, Claude has one foot in glitzy Hollywood and the other in the city's dark underbelly.

We see these contradictions embodied when we party at his crib, which he has carefully transformed into "an exact reproduction of the old Dupuy mansion near Biloxi, Mississippi" (4.1). He even dresses like a Southern slave-owner. On one hand, you might see this as the ridiculous and offensive nonsense of a man with more wealth than taste. On the other, you might see it as a sarcastic indictment of the capitalist system that treats him like a "master" of men. And guess what? You might be right either way.

So is Claude a hypocrite? Maybe. Probably. Either way, we see his weird identity crisis as another way for West to emphasize the artificiality of Hollywood. Even if you're a razor-sharp intellectual with a laser wit, you too can still fall victim to the corrupting influence of this nasty city.