U.S.A John Dos Passos

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U.S.A  by  John Dos Passos

U.S.A by John Dos Passos
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USA is by American writer John Dos Passos, being The 42nd Parallel (30), 1919 (32) & The Big Money (36). They were 1st published as a volume in 38 with a prologue. The trilogy employs experimental technique, incorporating four narrativeMoreUSA is by American writer John Dos Passos, being The 42nd Parallel (30), 1919 (32) & The Big Money (36).

They were 1st published as a volume in 38 with a prologue. The trilogy employs experimental technique, incorporating four narrative modes: fictional realism telling life stories of 12 characters- collages of newsclippings & lyrics labeled Newsreel- individually labeled short biographies of figures such as Eugene Debs & Thorstein Veblen- & fragments of an autobiographical stream of consciousness labeled Camera Eye.

USA covers America during the 1st 3rd of the 20th century.In realist sections, USA relates the lives of 12 persons seeking to find places in society during the early 20th century. Each is presented to the reader from childhood on in free indirect speech, giving the impression of reading about the whole life of a character. While their lives are distinct, characters occasionally interact. Some minor characters whose own point of view is never given crop up repeatedly in the background, forming bridges between main characters.Camera Eye sections are written in stream-of-consciousness adding up to an autobiographical Künstlerroman of Dos Passos, tracing his development into a politically committed writer.

Camera Eye 50 arguably contains the most famous line of the whole trilogy, when he states upon the execution of Sacco & Vanzetti: alright we are two nations.Newsreels are headlines from the Chicago Tribune for The 42nd Parallel & 1818 & from the NY World for The Big Money, as well as popular lyrics.

Newsreel 66, preceding Camera Eye 50 & announcing the Sacco & Vanzetti verdict, is noteworthy for containing The Internationale.The biographies are accounts of historical figures. The most famous & often anthologized of these biographies is The Body of an American telling the story of an unknown soldier who fell in WWI concluding 1919.However, the separation between these narrative modes is more stylistic than thematic. Critics have pointed out connections between the fictional character Mary French in The Big Money & journalist Mary Heaton Vorse, calling into question the separation between fictional characters & celebrity biographies- & quotes from newspapers are often woven into the biographies as well, calling into question the separation between them & Newsreels.The book is written from a leftist perspective, displaying a sympathy for & identification with the Industrial Workers of the World, in which several charcters are involved.

His attitude to the Communist Party is cooler, tho some individuals are depicted positively. The description of such incidents as the Centralia Massacre & the executions of Joe Hill, Sacco & Vanzetti leaves no doubt about where the writer stood.Also highly partisan is the negative depiction of Woodrow Wilson. While Wilson is remembered mainly for his post-WWI role in failing to get the US involved in the League of Nations, Dos Passos concentrates on opressive measures taken by his administration against the IWW & other radical, labor movement & antiwar groups, before & especially during the war as well as in the later Red Scare.However, while refelecting the fact that Dos Passos was on the Left when the trilogy was written, it also reflects his growing pessimism.

Social change is essentially presented as desirable but inattainable. The IWW is mourned as a lost hope (it still exists, but lost its momentum under governmental suppression).This is clearly reflected in the careers of the trilogys characters. Excepting those who get killed off, characters as they grow older almost invariably abandon their principles, lose their vitality & become coopted into the lifeless capitalist system or the scarcely better Communist bureaucracy. Seen in light of Dos Passos political devolution, USA may mark his last station on the Left.



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