“They were savage and bitter, especially the middle-aged and
the old, and had been made so by boredom and disappointment.
All their lives they had slaved at some kind of dull, heavy labor,
behind desks and counters, in the fields and at tedious machines
of all sorts, saving their pennies and dreaming of the leisure that
would be theirs when they had enough. Finally that day came.
They could draw a weekly income of ten or fifteen dollars. Where
else should they go but California, the land of sunshine and
Once there, they discover that sunshine isn’t enough. They get
tired of oranges, even of avocado pears and passion fruit. Nothing
happens. They don’t know what to do with their time. They
haven’t the mental equipment for leisure, the money nor the
physical equipment for pleasure. Did they slave so long just to go
to an occasional Iowa picnic? What else is there? They watch the
waves come in at Venice. There wasn’t any ocean where most of
them came from, but after you’ve seen one wave, you’ve seen
them all. The same is true of the airplanes at Glendale. If only a
plane would crash once in a while so that they could watch the
passengers being consumed in a “holocaust of flame,” as the
newspapers put it. But the planes never crash.
Their boredom becomes more and more terrible. They realize
that they’ve been tricked and burn with resentment. Every day of
their lives they read the newspapers and went to the movies.
Both fed them on lynchings, murder, sex crimes, explosions,
wrecks, love nests, fires, miracles, revolutions, wars. This daily
diet made sophisticates of them. The sun is a joke. Oranges can’t
titillate their jaded palates. Nothing can ever be violent enough to
make taut their slack minds and bodies. They have been cheated
and betrayed. They have slaved and saved for nothing.”
-Nathanael West, The Day of the Locust