One Man's Initiation
Based on the author's first-hand experience as an ambulance driver during World War I, this first novel is noteworthy for its vivid and colorful portrait of France at that time and for its passionate indictment of war. The author's disillusionment with war, for a time, turned him toward socialism and against capitalism. Finally, after being labeled "pro-German" and "pacifist," Dos Passos concluded that the quasi-religion of Marxism was far more brutal than "poor old Capitalism ever dreamed of." Reprinted from the unexpurgated original edition published by Cornell University Press in 1969.
Adventures of a Young Man
In a novel that closely parallels author John Dos Passos's own ideological struggles during the Spanish Civil War, protagonist Glenn Spotswood, an American, travels to Spain to fight on the Republican side. There, Spotswood joins the Communist Party to help establish a more just society, but his idealism quickly degrades under the stress of party orthodoxy and hypocrisy.
Tyler Spotswood, an alcoholic campaign manager, helps elect a corrupt Southern politician to the U.S. Senate. When his boss, Chuck Crawford aka "Number One," pins a scandal on Spotswood, Tyler is too drunk to blow the whistle. Number One draws many comparisons to Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men. Crawford reminds many of Louisiana politician Huey Long, a figure studied in person by Dos Passos.
The Grand Design
John Dos Passos's literary response to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal, The Grand Design critiques the gargantuan growth of bureaucracy in Washington during the Great Depression and World War II. The satiric novel conveys the author's frustration with federal overreach and the hollow rhetoric that sells it to the people.
"War is a time of Caesars," writes Dos Passos as he laments the death of idealistic, intelligent enterprises at the desks of elitist administrators. After witnessing the Spanish Civil War claim so many well-intentioned men, he advises caution for America's New Dealers: "Some things we have learned, but not enough; there is more to learn. Today we must learn to found again in freedom our republic."