John Dos Passos (1896–1970)

  1. Christopher MacGowan

Published Online: 24 FEB 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781444393675.ch15

The Twentieth-Century American Fiction Handbook

The Twentieth-Century American Fiction Handbook

How to Cite

MacGowan, C. (2011) John Dos Passos (1896–1970), in The Twentieth-Century American Fiction Handbook, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444393675.ch15

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 24 FEB 2012
  2. Published Print: 21 JAN 2011

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781405160230

Online ISBN: 9781444393675



  • John Dos Passos (1896–1970);
  • John Dos Passos, writing prolifically on politics, American history and travel - best known for his trilogy U.S.A;
  • Dos Passos, categorized as a naturalist writer - naturalism in his work, grounded in cultural and political history;
  • major work, Manhattan Transfer - story of the unsuccessful marriage of Jimmy Herf and Ellen Thatcher, compromises Ellen makes for financial security;
  • Dos Passos, involved - in the New York City literary world;
  • Dos Passos, in 1927 beginning work on the first novel of the U.S.A. trilogy - The 42nd Parallel, in 1930, and The Big Money in 1936;
  • Dos Passos, adding a short prologue and epilogue - “U.S.A., slice of a continent” and, following a representative catalogue of institutions, places and situations;
  • major fictional characters of first two novels - Fenian McCreary (“Mac”), ambivalent role in radical labor politics, exploitive capitalist J. Ward Moorehouse;
  • Story of Mary French in The Big Money - disillusionment, Dos Passos came to feel about the Communist Party and left-wing politics, in the late 1930s;
  • trilogy's theme, power of politicians and media - to oppress and manipulate the individual, a familiar Dos Passos concern


This chapter contains sections titled:

  • Bibliography