America: Carried by Currents or Charting the Course Essay

America: Carried by Currents or Charting the Course Essay

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Freedom is a personal liberty to which Americans have been entitled since the signing of the Constitution. During the beginning of the twentieth century, a crisis mightily challenged this liberty. Capitalist industry was at its prime. Large businesses were drawing in millions of dollars. A large contributor to this industrial success was cheap labor. By the early 1900s, America’s working class was turning into a flotsam due to unregulated businesses taking advantage of vulnerable laborers. Big business’s insatiable desire for growth was driving America’s social and economic forces – defining “pursuit of happiness” almost exclusively in terms of economic success. As a result, the values of commitment to family, community, freedom of speech, and equal opportunity fell by the wayside. A writer troubled by what was happening to his country during this time was John Dos Passos. His European experiences as a child and later as a World War I Allied-ambulance driver had deepened his appreciation for America’s foundational values and sensitized him to societal currents he feared were disintegrating America’s core identity (“U.S.A.” 292). After his return from war, Dos Passos turned to writing as a way to address the perils of greed, materialism, and complacency he saw threatening America. U.S.A., his trilogy that chronicled America during the early 1900s, subtly revealed America’s unmooring from its founding principles. His twelve-hundred-page tome captured “the historic and spiritual life of an entire country” from years 1900 to 1929 (Doctorow vii). In The 42nd Parallel, the first installment of U.S.A., John Dos Passos exposed the moral failures threatening America’s integrity and subliminally challenged readers to counter this threat thr...

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...ulture in the Twentieth Century. New York City: Verso, 1998. Print.
Doctorow, E. L. Foreword. The 42nd Parallel. By John Dos Passos. 1930. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991. vii-xi. Print.
Dos Passos, John. The 42nd Parallel. 1930. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991. Print.
Maine, Barry. “ U.S.A. : Dos Passos and the Rhetoric of History.” Rev. of U.S.A. South Atlantic Review Jan. 1985: 75-86. Print.
“U.S.A..” Novels for Students. Ed. Jennifer Smith. Vol. 14. Detroit: Gale, 2002. 291-320. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 12 Oct. 2011.
“U.S.A. by John Dos Passos.” Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. James P. Draper, Jennifer Brostrom, and Brigham Narins. Vol. 82. Detroit: Gale Research, 1994. 61-111. Literature Criticism Online. Web. 13 Oct. 2011.
Wrenn, John H. “U.S.A..” John Dos Passos. New Haven: United Printing Services, 1961. 154-166. Print.

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