“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

oranges?

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

About Mark Egge

Two truths and a lie: Mark Egge is an outdoor enthusiast, opera singer, and a transportation data scientist. He lives in Bozeman, Montana.
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