Novel by Dos Passos published in 1932. It is the second in the trilogy U.S.A. (collected 1938), including The 42nd Parallel (1930) and The Big Money (1936). Interspersed in the narrative are brief biographies of John Reed, Randolph Bourne, Theodore Roosevelt, Paxton Hibben, Wilson, J. P. Morgan, Joe Hill, Wesley Everest, and the Unknown Soldier. (For critical discussion, see Dos Passos.)
Joe Williams deserts from the navy and sails on tankers and freighters across the Atlantic, although several times jailed and aboard torpedoed ships. Richard Ellsworth Savage, son of a genteelly poor family, is aided by a politician, who sends him to Harvard. There he is an aesthete until, stirred by the war, he joins an ambulance corps in France and then, through the politician's influence, gets an army commission. His eye ever on the main chance, he gets a post at the Peace Conference with the public relations office of J. Ward Moorehouse. Meanwhile he has an affair with Anne Trent, a confused Texas debutante who is on her way to do relief work in the Near East, but refuses to marry her when she becomes pregnant, for fear of losing his chance to rise with Moore-house. She gets hysterical, goes on a wild air flight, and is killed when the plane crashes. Ben Compton, a bright young Brooklyn Jew, once a friend of Anne Trent, is active in a strike, becomes a Socialist, is an agitator at a Passaic mill strike, and is jailed. When released, he bums across the U.S., is beaten by police in Seattle because he is an I.W.W. radical, and is sent to prison for his pacifist agitation.
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John Dos Passos (1896—1970) American novelist