Study Guide

The Day of the Locust Chapter 1

By Nathanael West

Chapter 1

  • Tod Hackett is about to end his workday when a sudden commotion prompts him to look outside his window. What he sees is pretty crazy, if you ask us.
  • Outside, there's a massive throng of people dressed in antiquated military garb from England and France. This is already confusing. Suddenly, we see a man with a... polo shirt. Huh?
  • Oh, okay—we're in Hollywood, folks. This is just a film shoot. Turns out that Tod, a painter with a fine arts degree from Yale, has recently got a job as a costume designer.
  • Tod's also going to make a painting called "'The Burning of Los Angeles'" in the near future (1.8). We guess that's going to be important.
  • Anyway, Tod has left and is walking down Vine Street. He spends a lot of time observing the weirdos who stroll by, who also happen to provide him with artistic inspiration. He calls them "the people who come to California to die."
  • Tod had almost quit painting after seeing the reality of the life of an artist. In fact, that's why he took the costume job in the first place.
  • As he walks home, Tod notices the strange architecture of the city, each building built in a completely different style and one plopped next to the other without rhyme or reason.