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This anti-war novel complements All Quiet On The Western Front. John Dos Passos drew upon his own experiences as a volunteer amublance driver in France to write this novel. Perhaps more than any other author I ever read, he succeeded in bringing to life the conditions many front line soldiers faced during WW I. His description of the sounds made by the endless firing of artillery shells captured my imagination.
At the conclusion of the novel, he uses an unlikely group of front-line soldiers to articulate his view of society and the future. It strained my credulity.
I hope to read more novels by Dos Passos to see whether he continued to support his preference for socialism, attributing capitalistic greed as the basis for war.
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To read this is to see at once how much is owed by Ernest Hemingway to this particular novel and this wonderful novelist. This novel represents a fully fleshed out narrative that is an interesting alternative to the War Poets and illustrates the boisterousness, naivety and wrong-headedness with which a generation of young Americans went into the First World War and the scars that they carried out of the conflict and bombardment of their cultural sensitivities.
The vignettes dealing with the death and mauling of men and animals are arresting. The unrestrained call to Socialism is revelatory. The rite of passage links 19th Century American literature to the exciting and frightening dawn of a wonderful and transformative century for that country. Where did it all go wrong?