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Women and the City Literature

In modern American fiction female characters are portrayed in a variety of ways, from saints and sinners to partners and rivals. So, too, rising industrialism and urban development altered not only the American landscape but a previous way of life and its culture and values. These cultural aspects evolved during the era when the authors under analysis here wrote. For these reasons we see that the roles of women and “cities” makeup a vital part in the following four works of modern American fiction: Nathanial West’s The Day of the Locust, Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man, Nella Larson’s Passing, and William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying.

In West’s The Day of the Locust the city of Los Angeles is an alluring Black Widow with a deadly bite behind its glitter and glitz. Strange, disparate people populate this novel like the painter Tod who wants to paint “The Burning of Los Angeles” (West 2). Women, too, play a critical role in Locust, but they are as deadly as the city can be to the men who are lured by their particular brand of glitter and glitz. Creatures like Faye are represented as a brand of female that will bring down any man naïve enough to get too close – emotionally and physically. As Tod muses at the end of chapter one, “It is hard to laugh at the need for beauty and romance, no matter how tasteless, even horrible, the results of that need are. But it is easy to sigh. Few things are sadder than the truly monstrous” (West 4). In this novel both the city and the main female characters turn out to be truly monstrous.

In Hammett’s The Thin Man the city is kept shrouded in mystery and remains an ominous presence in the book. The era of prohibition is alive and well, but this never seems to stop anyone from drinking whether it is behind closed doors at home or in any number of speakeasys. In this book we see the beginning of the anti-hero in the male who is reluctant to involve himself but even...

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Women and the City Literature. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 12:51, May 29, 2020, from