The 42nd Parallel Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 38 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The 42nd Parallel.
This section contains 552 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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The 42nd Parallel Summary & Study Guide Description

The 42nd Parallel Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on The 42nd Parallel by John Dos Passos.

The 42nd Parallel by John Dos Passos is the first part of the USA Trilogy. The book is about the lives of ordinary Americans living and trapped by the time period in which they live. These people live their lives and pass on or just disappear. Some meet and interact with one another while other don't.

The book is called a novel but there is no plot. It is a book about people and their lives over a period of about three decades. These are people like J. Ward Moorehouse who is a public relations man and Eleanor Stoddard who is an interior decorator and the book is a narrative of their lives. They all have one think in common: they are people who are dominated by institutions. They are trapped by history, as stated in the Forward, and are given by the Newsreels that are interspersed throughout the text. The Newsreels can be a variety of things like new clips, advertising slogans or the lyrics of songs from the time. Mixed in with this are the brief biographies of important people of the time. There is also the Camera Eye in which Dos Passos provides glimpses into his own life.

Their life stories begin when they are children and the reader watches them grow up and make their way in the world. Most come from humble beginnings in twentieth century America and are unhappy with where they grew up as soon as they can, the leave the area, looking for better opportunities. All of the characters travel for one reason or another and many of them end up in New York. Many of the men make their way around the country by hopping freight trains or hitchhiking and go from place to place, fining work where they can along the way. The women move in response to a job. The reader learns of the everyday problems they face and how they deal with those problems in the era in which they live.

The book is about on America of a different era. This is the time of the labor movement and the wobbly's, the time of clashes between workers and management. Throughout the book the characters are presenting their opinions about the issues and they don't always agree with one another. Some, like Mac, want to be involved in the labor movement. Other don't.

The novel is written in a way that makes it quite interesting reading. The Newsreel items and the brief bios tie in as well as The Camera Eye with what is happening in the lives of the characters and is an interesting way of describing the scene for the reader. The characters who live during this time do their best to survive and accomplish their goals. None of them starts out with money, although some, like Ward, marry money. Others, like Eleanor, achieve a lifestyle that far surpasses their childhood. They all struggle in various ways.

The book is enjoyable reading and the reader will be glad that he/she invested the time in reading the book. The unique style of John Dos Passos is what makes the book so enjoyable. The 42nd Parallel is the first part of the trilogy so some of the characters that are introduced in this book are further developed in other parts of the trilogy.

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This section contains 552 words
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