Howells, Dos Passos and the changing American success ethic
Howell, Amy C.
Master of Arts
William Dean Howells and John Dos Passos were the literary spokesmen for their respective eras. In A Modern Instance. Howells documents the failure of a marriage that, by the standards of contemporary romantic fiction, should have been a success; instead, it ends in divorce. Howells uses this failed marriage as a metaphor for other types of failure as well; in doing so, he questions the changing business, social and moral standards of his time. In The Big Money, Dos Passos presents the fiscal and moral corruption of the Jazz Age; his portrayal of three Americans of the 192‘s exposes the hypocrisy of the business world, Hollywood, and leftist political movements. In both novels, obsessive pursuit of material goods results in empty, unhappy, wasted lives.