6
Epilogue

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

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Nathanael West's Novels
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