The four novels vary is quality-the two most powerful ones are, of course, Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust-but they share remarkable similarities of theme, character, and symbol. We would expect this kind of similarity because West is, like such other American writers as Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, and Faulkner, an obsessive artist. I underline the noun to indicate that he does not merely throw "narcissism," quest, etc. at us and force us to pattern them; he shapes his dreams in complex ways that demand the close readings I have given.

The novels resemble lyrics. They are constructed tightly -- except for A Cool Million -- because they stress image, not idea. This is not to imply that they do not deal with important themes -- West writes about the most important ones we can consider: destiny, wisdom, "reality"! -- but to suggest that they are, after all the analyses, symbolist designs. If we neglect the performer, the mirror, or the room, we misread (misunderstand) the meaning. Image is idea; form is content.

I find that although I have explicated the symbols -- ideas of the novels (and, hopefully, such structural devices as the disappearing narrator or the dream- within-dream), I have not devoted much time to the style of individual paragraphs. Here I want to analyze some paragraphs to demonstrate how they embody West's total vision. (It is, finally, by paragraphs that we


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Nathanael West's Novels


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 141

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?