Then we come to John Dos Passos’s entry in the race, a series of three novels originally published separately — The 42nd Parallel (). If The 42nd Parallel, the first novel in John Dos Passos’ formerly revered, now oft- forgotten trilogy U.S.A. lacks the psychological, nuanced. The 42nd Parallel is the first volume of Dos Passos’ famous U.S.A. Trilogy. This is structurally one of the most challenging of forms. It is the story of the U.S.A.

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I need to qualify my upcoming bold statement with two disclaimers. First off, I’m already on record as being underwhelmed by the hallowed novel I’m about to mention in my forthcoming bold statement.

Second, The 42nd Parallel is only the first part of a three volume trilogy that should probably be considered as a whole, and I have only read this volume. But what’s the point of writing paralell reviews if your not going to bring strong opinions.

So despite the aforesaid reservations, here it goes: Trilogy is a work of historical fiction that takes place from the beginning of the 20th century to around I know what your thinking, how can I compare Keroauc’s “great American road novel” with a piece of historical fiction.

John Dos Passos: U.S.A. | Library of America

Well, Dos Passos didn’t write a typical example of historical fiction. You might feel tempted to draw comparisons with Doctorow’s Ragtime. Dos Passos must have been a large influence on Doctorow, the two books share a similar time frame and themes. Like Doctorow, Dos Passos isn’t concerned with telling the stories of specific individuals, but in using individual examples to give a sense of an overall whole. Doctorow does this by refusing to personalize his characters, they remain “Mother,” “The Boy,” “Mother’s Brother,” etc.

While Dos Passos gives his characters Christian names, The 42nd Parallel is even less significantly “about” its characters than Ragtime. There are no moments where a character exclaims something like, “We’ve booked passage back on the White Star Line. They say their new vessel is unsinkable. The characters don’t really affect the course of events, and the course of event’s don’t really have a great effect on the characters.

Dos Passos isn’t trying to give the reader an idea of how the times were experienced on an individual level, he is more interested in the collective experience. As cheesy as this may sound, U. To fully convey this argument, I need to talk a little about the trilogy’s overall structure.

Dos Passos uses four different “devices” to tell his story. The most conventional of these, are chapters telling the story of one of four characters. Overall, we follow twelve characters, six men and six women, through the trilogy.

These characters provide a compelling and reasonably diverse sampling of early 20th century Americans. It’s compelling, but not necessarily ground breaking or momentous material considered by itself. However, the strength of the novel lies in how Dos Passos supplements these narratives using other techniques. The conventional chapters are followed by what Dos Passos calls “Newsreels. Let me just give a randomly picked example: Dos Passos inserts himself in the novel through “The Camera Eye,” 27 short, autobiographical, stream of conscience, passages.

This device, heavily influenced by Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man can also be a little disorienting because no context is provided. Finally, interlaced in the text are several somewhat poetic, somewhat gonzo, biographical sketches of prominent figures in the era. Dos Passos includes these because “their lives seem to embody so well the quality of the soil in which Americans of these generations grew.

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So remember how way back in the first paragraph I mentioned Keroauc. Well here’s where the comparison comes in. I believe Dos Passos and Keroauc shared a identical idea, and U. In the revised prologue to The 42nd Parallel written after the publication of the final volume of the trilogy, Dos Passos describes a nameless man who is completely solitary but not alone.

Allow me to quote a long passage, because it’s pretty fucking amazing: Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. The 42nd Parallel The U. Trilogy 1 by John Dos Passos. While Fitzgerald and Hemingway were cultivating what Edmund Wilson once called their “own little corners,” John Dos Passos was taking on the world.

Counted as one of the best novels of the twentieth century by the Modern With his U. Counted as one of the best novels of the twentieth century by the Modern Library and by some of the finest writers working today, U.

“But Dos Passos does not stop there” How 42nd Parallel Lives on Today

Slowly, in stories artfully spliced together, the lives and fortunes of five characters unfold. As their lives cross and double back again, the likes of Eugene Debs, Thomas Edison, and 42nnd Carnegie make cameo appearances. Paperbackpages. Published May 25th by Mariner Books first published United States of America.

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask paralle readers questions about The 42nd Parallelplease sign up. Lists with This Book. Dec 06, Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing. Andrew Carnegie believed in iron, built bridges Bessemer plants blast furnaces rolling mills; Andrew Carnegie believed in oil; Andrew Carnegie believed in steel; always saved his money whenever he had a million dollars he invested it.

Andrew Carnegie became the richest man in the world an “Andrew Carnegie started out buying Adams Express and Pullman stock when they were in a slump; he had confidence in railroads, he had confidence in communications, he had confidence in transportation, he believed in iron. Andrew Carnegie became the richest man pasoss the world and died. His father also had issues with him given that he had the audacity to swell the belly of HIS mistress. The elder Dos Passos was a distinguished lawyer dis with the industrial capitalists.

He made out their trusts, advised them, and made a heap dso cabbage doing so.

The 42nd Parallel is the first pasxos three novels that make up the U. Dos Passos used his first few novels to rail against capitalism and showed sympathy for communism which did not have the stigma associated with it that came into play in the s. This novel had twelve characters that each get dis chance to tell their story. The four narrative modes In the fictional narrative sections, the U. Each character is presented to the reader from their childhood on and in free indirect speech.

While their lives are separate, characters occasionally meet. Some minor characters whose point of view is never given crop up in the background, forming a kind of bridge between the characters. Camera Eye 50 arguably contains the most famous line of the trilogy, when Dos Passos states upon the executions of Sacco and Vanzetti: Newsreel 66, preceding Camera Eye 50, announcing the Sacco pzrallel Vanzetti verdict, contains the lyrics of “The Internationale. The most often anthologized of these biographies is “The Body of an American”, which tells the story of an unknown soldier who was killed in World War I which concludes Nineteen Nineteen.


The passoss of these modes is where Dos Passos brilliance really shines. I did not feel irritated at the switches between narratives, but read each new section with equal fascination.

It was really a precursor to TV with, in this case, passoss commercial breaks between sections of storyline. Some of them are capitalist and some are self proclaimed communists, but at the end of the day all the characters are concerned, primarily, about keeping a roof over their head and food in their mouth.

To me a blending of communist and capitalist ideas comes as close to a perfect society as we can get. Contrary to what I had been taught, in an anti-communist environment, the will of the individual would be tempered under such a concept, and yet; on Star Trek these people I admired were individualistic and motivated to be successful. His mother taught him what she knew at home and read eighteenth century writers with him, Gibbon and Hume and Newton, and let him doz up a laboratory in the cellar.

Whenever he read about anything he went down in the cellar and tried it out. The concept of a happy worker is a productive worker was not even a sparkle in the eye of Carnegie or Rockefeller.

They were more concerned about who could pile up the most money and labor, though necessary for them to become rich, was only notated on the deficit side of the ledger.

The 42nd Parallel, 1930

There is such an anti-union parallle in the country today, forgetting what wonderful advancements unions gave us, and also completely ignoring that the tycoons of today are the same as the tycoons of the 19th pasoss. For the sake of huge profits NOW corporations forget that people have to have money to buy the products they are producing. The money goes down and then it comes back up. Everybody needs skin in the game. One bed is not enough, one job is not enough, one life is not enough.

At night, head swimming with wants, he walks by himself alone. I was naive enough to feel that I could do everything. The world was my oyster to paraphrase some hack writer from England. To be successful of course, something I was dox eventually concerned about which also jettisoned me out of the halycyon days oassos the book business, it did become necessary to choose, make concessions, and pick of path that would allow me to achieve some semblance of security.

I got married and had kids and suddenly any reckless thought was carefully weighed and generally rejected in favor of the decision with less risk. The Wobblies are dod One of the characters Mac finds himself caught on the treadmill trying to dox more and more money to please his wife and kids. He enjoys his life despite the stress. His wife is pretty and the way she smells and feels when she is in his arms provides a comfort.

His kids put a smile on his face. Money drives a wedge in his marriage and after one particularly bad fight he chooses to chuck it all and heed the call of the communist movement.