Manhattan Transfer

Bud, not Buddy: The Destruction of Individuality in John Dos Passos’s Manhattan Transfer College

“…Bud is sitting on the rail of the bridge. The sun has risen behind Brooklyn. The windows of Manhattan have caught fire. He jerks himself forward, slips, dangles by a hand with the sun in his eyes” (105) . . .

Unlike Realism and Romanticism, whose philosophical tenets were defined following these movements’ respective declines, Modernism was initially situated through the embrace of certain philosophical axioms, most notably the celebration of the individual struggling to find meaning and solidity in a chaotic world. The most prominent cause of the lack of stability in Modernity is the advent of mass industrialization and the birth of the metropolis. Through an intricate level of wordplay, Manhattan Transfer, written in 1925 by John Dos Passos, establishes itself as a quintessential Modernist text by demonstrating the ability of the metropolis to pulverize the notion of autonomy. Nowhere in the novel is the metropolitan-induced loss of individuality more evident than the death of Bud Korpenning.

Bud Korpenning is introduced in the third paragraph of the novel, leading readers to believe that he is the protagonist; however, he is the first character who is slaughtered by the psychological and physical burden of the...

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