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An analysis of John Dos Passos' Streets of Night and its seminal effect on Manhattan Transfer and U.S.A
Breedlove, Nancy Elizabeth P
Isle, Walter W.
Master of Arts
Common to all of John Dos Passos' early novels is a pessimistic view of man's ability to fulfill himself and to make a worthy contribution to society at the same time. The author's philosophy has been examined with respect to almost all of his early novels culminating in U.S.A, except for Streets of Night. Although Streets of Night is an immature work, in an overall analysis of Dos Passos' work the novel merits study. The characters in Streets of Night may be no more than stereotypes, but they represent types that Dos Passos repeatedly uses. Chapter One of the thesis is an analysis of the three main characters -- Fanshaw Macdougan, David Wendell, and Nancibel Taylor--to establish what the types are from whom Dos Passos draws his characters in Manhattan Transfer and U.S.A. Simultaneously the study shows that lifeless as the characters are, they are drawn with a precision that marks Dos Passos' maturing craftsmanship. The author*s use of imagery and his careful meshing of imagery with structure is examined in Chapter Two. In his awareness that imagery must be functional rather than decorative for it to have meaning and that structure is one of the major concerns of the novelist, Dos Passos demonstrates a sophistication that is absent in his earlier works. In Chapter Three the characters, imagery, and structure of Streets of Night are studied in relationship to those of Manhattan Transfer and of U.S.A. . One ultimately observes that although Streets of Night seems to have little relation to U.S.A. , the novelist's character types and his low estimation of man's ability and willingness to make his life personally and socially rewarding remain essentially the same from the somewhat unsuccessful efforts of the apprentice to the masterpiece of the accomplished writer.