Manhattan Transfer

Techniques of Conveying 'Meaning' in John Dos Passos' 'Manhattan Transfer'

"Oh I know everything is dead." So says Billy Waldron to Ruth Prynne in chapter two, 'Nickelodeon,' of the third section of John Dos Passos' 'Manhattan Transfer'. This statement embodies several techniques Dos Passos uses throughout his novel - such as an almost insignificant 'throwaway' line of dialogue, a dour comment, an observation made about people which is representative of the city as a whole, an instance of foreshadowing whose importance comes into play later on techniques that sometimes linger for only a scene before their pay-off arrives, while others linger for the span of several chapters before we understand their purpose.

"Oh I know everything is dead." Billy speaks these words after Ruth tells him she has "had a terrible run of bad luck." We are sympathetic towards Ruth - she has a sore throat, she feels "like the wrath of God," and then when she runs into her old friend Billy and he tells her he has not heard from her in a good while, she knows he has put her down "as a back number." She is not in the best of health, feels tired, has been cut off from a former companion, and has fallen on hard times. However, rather than allaying...

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