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Dos Passos, John (1896–1970)

Stacy Warner Maddern


As an illegitimate child born in Chicago in 1896, John Dos Passos often described himself as “an unidentified stranger” with a “destination unknown.” As a child he lived in Brussels and then London until he entered the Choate Preparatory School in Wallingford, Connecticut, in 1907. Because of his European upbringing he often considered himself “a man without a country.” In September 1912 Dos Passos entered Harvard University, where he became a critic of industrialism, claiming that the “world today somehow got itself enslaved by this immense machine.” When the United States entered World War I Dos Passos joined the Red Cross as an ambulance driver on the Italian front. It was during this time that he met and began a friendship with Ernest Hemingway. His experiences there taught him that war was an imperialist adventure and upon his return to America he began to filter his distrust into writing. The war struck him as the product of monopoly capitalism which sought to sacrifice young men to secure market advantage. He was convinced that people would see this corruption and demand reform. In 1921 he published Three Soldiers , which was lauded as an anti-war statement centered on the human tragedy of war. In March 1922 the Chicago Tribune slammed Three Soldiers , accusing Dos Passos of being unpatriotic in an editorial entitled “ Three Soldiers Branded as Textbook and Bible for ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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