CliffsNotes on West's Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust

CliffsNotes on West's Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust

CliffsNotes on West's Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust

CliffsNotes on West's Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust

Excerpt

Nathanael West’s fourth and longest novel, together with Miss Lonelyhearts, establishes his claim to permanent attention as a first-rate literary artist and analyst of twentieth-century American life, an achievement which had its genesis during West’s five years of close observation of Hollywood in the first decade of talking pictures. West went to Hollywood in 1933 as a screenwriter, and except for a few brief trips, he spent most of his remaining life there. He lived in a rundown apartment house, like the one described in The Day of the Locust, and he was a close observer of the city’s varied denizens and pretentious decor. Hollywood was becoming the nation’s “dream factory,” as a famous anthropologist called it years later, both through its products and the hopes which it held out to the many who dreamed of successfully becoming glamorous actors and actresses or juvenile stars. The surrounding city of Los Angeles also attracted, because of the California climate and the presence of celebrities, numerous bored retirees living on tight pensions; alongside this phenomenon, many religious and health cults and fads promised easy salvation, all competing with one another for their money and loyalty. It was the decade of the Great Depression, whose poverty intensified the desperation of those who sought riches and fame, or merely excitement.

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