John Dos Passos American Literature Analysis
Dos Passos was the most experimental of the major novelists of what critics now refer to as the period of “high modernism,” which lasted roughly from 1910 until 1940. His great contemporaries in the American novel, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and William Faulkner, all concentrated on writing about specific areas or groups. Hemingway, during the 1920’s, wrote mostly about expatriate Americans living in Europe and about such upper-class sports as big-game hunting and bullfighting. Fitzgerald, too, wrote about expatriates but also about bored flappers and socialites, upper-class young people with too much money and too little to do. Faulkner, while using such experimental techniques as stream of consciousness, focused all of his attention on the Deep South, especially his native corner of northern Mississippi.
Dos Passos was looking for techniques that would enable him to portray the wide range of characters and economic situations to be found in American society. He was also looking for a style that would reflect the fast pace of modern life and the actual speech of its people. Even as early as Three Soldiers he was engaged in this pursuit, choosing as his principal characters a farm boy from Indiana, an aesthete from the East Coast, and an Italian working-class man from San Francisco and making no attempt to combine their stories, except to make clear that all were destroyed by the machinelike nature of the modern Army.
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