California

California

In Nathaniel West’s Day of the Locust and Julian Marias’ “California as Paradise” we are given a portrait of Californian (specifically Los Angeles) that breaks the myth of Los Angeles as paradise found. Instead, we get in both the novella and the essay a portrait of Los Angeles which is paradise only so long as one does not scratch the image any deeper than the surface. For, in reality, both the novella and the essay inform us that Los Angeles paradise is a myth that appears attractive to those who wish to escape the meaninglessness of their lives. In an attempt to escape the existential dilemma, the inhabitants of Los Angeles avoid death by pursuing the mythic illusions of this fabricated paradise, illusions which never become reality and ones that leave them unfilled and worse off than the empty former lives they came to Los Angeles to escape.

In West’s novella we are treated to the “mob” which is already dead, and the main characters who possess some individual talents, but who still end up as dead as the mob from their unfulfillment. Homer, Faye, Tod and others may have ability and talent, but, since they are pursuing a dream that does not exist in reality, they still end up as empty, unfulfilled and dead as the walking dead “mob.” Perhaps Homer Simpson best exemplifies this as he pursues the caring and loving relationship of which he knows he is capable but cannot find. When he discovers only hatred and violence in the people among whom he looked for love, Homer becomes a crazed murderer in the final apocalyptic mob scene at the end of the book. His search for love may be presented as more genuine than most of the dreams of those who come to Los Angeles, but West seems to be implying it is still a dream. Thus, it turns Homer into a fragmented man who turns to violence when he discovers his dreams are not realistic, similarly to those who have come to Los Angeles with more grandiose dreams like ambit…

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