Study Guide

The Day of the Locust Disappointment

By Nathanael West


Picture this: you're recently retired. Having fought tooth and nail to save enough money, you and your bae can finally fulfill your lifelong dream of moving to California. At first, it's amazing. Before long, though, you realize the good life in sunny CA ain't all it's cracked up to be. As it happens, this is the exact predicament Nathanael West dissects in The Day of the Locust, arguing that the American Dream has died and left us with nothing but disappointment. So how are we supposed to react to this loss? Sadness? Anger? Depression? Well, if you hear West tell it, there's only one way that this ordeal can end: violence.

Questions About Disappointment

  1. Is Tod disappointed by life? Explain.
  2. Why does Tod not consider Homer to be a person who came to California to die?
  3. How are feelings of disappointment related to broader societal issues in this novel?
  4. How do the characters release their feelings of disappointment?

Chew on This

Although Tod spends most of his time observing other people's disappointment, he's just as disappointed by life as they are.

Throughout the novel, feelings of disappointment always lead to violence.