Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Army camp

Army camp. U.S. training camp in which the novel’s three soldiers prepare to be sent overseas. In the boring, restrictive confines of army camp life, Andrews, Chrisfield, and Fuselli chafe under the dull monotony of daily training and routine designed to force them to perform their tasks in lock-step automation. Ill-trained for combat, their unit departs by ship to France, where the three young men begin another period of boredom while awaiting their assignment to the war front.


*France. While waiting for orders to move to the front, the men get their first look at the shell-shocked and wounded men returning from a battle at the Argonne Forest. As they confront the realities of battle injuries and exhaustion, their ardor for fighting the “Huns” begins to cool, and they resent even more the endless routine and orders to march here and there seemingly without purpose. When their orders finally come through, Fuselli’s spirits lift. He wants to move up in the ranks to corporal and is eager for the glory that frontline combat will give him a chance to earn. However, his sergeant’s promises are false and the promotion he expects goes to another. Fuselli gives up on himself and insults the sergeant, and is arrested for insubordination.

As the troop train moves slowly through the darkness, it passes a hospital train returning from the front, and a rumor spreads that Germans have...

(The entire section is 558 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Brantley, John. The Fiction of John Dos Passos. The Hague: Mouton, 1968. Surveys the novels chronologically, discussing the structure of Three Soldiers as well conceived but less successfully executed. Shows how each of the three soldiers is destroyed by the military machine.

Clark, Michael. Dos Passos’s Early Fiction. Selinsgrove, Pa.: Susquehanna University Press, 1987. Considers Walt Whitman’s poetry and William James’s psychology as the main influences on this novel, and gives a psychological interpretation of the principal characters.

Cooperman, Stanley. “John Dos Passos’ Three Soldiers.” In The First World War in Fiction, edited by Holger Klein. London: Macmillan, 1978. Still the standard and most extensive reading of the novel, emphasizing its foreshadowing of the U.S.A. trilogy. The editor’s excellent introductory essay provides a context for novels about the Great War.

Sanders, David. John Dos Passos: A Comprehensive Bibliography. New York: Garland, 1987. The brief annotations are particularly helpful, and a section is devoted to Three Soldiers. Especially valuable is the listing of the reviews the novel received when it first appeared.