Manhattan Transfer

Manhattan Transfer Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Is Jimmy Herf an alter-ego for John Dos Passos? Certainly parts of Jimmy's life -- his mother's death, his participation in World War I, and his radicalism -- reflect parts of Dos Passos's. But do the parallels run deeper? What is the implication of a protagonist who reflects the author in the midst of such a sprawling, fragmented, and seemingly nonlinear work?

  2. 2

    Manhattan Transfer: classical or modern? Discuss.

  3. 3

    Examine the depiction of World War I in Manhattan Transfer. Compare to other novels of the early twentieth century that involve the War but do not depict it directly -- for example, Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway or Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.

  4. 4

    Analyze Dos Passos's style. Choose any one of the short vignettes involving a nameless character or set of characters, and examine the following: diction, syntax, rhythm, structure, use of poetic devices, ellipsis, and imagery. Explicate the passage as if it were a poem unto itself.

  5. 5

    Manhattan Transfer bears many similarities to T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. To what extent can the novel be described as poetry? Examine the ways in which Dos Passos blurs the lines between prose and poetry.

  6. 6

    Trace Ellen's character from the beginning of the novel to the end. We open on her birth and close shortly after her marriage to Baldwin. Does Dos Passos judge her? How can we interpret her actions? What might lie in store for her next?

  7. 7

    Dos Passos begins each of his chapters with an italicized passage of non-narrative prose-poetry. Pick one and analyze it in relation to the chapter it opens.

  8. 8

    Is Manhattan Transfer a political text? If so, in what ways does Dos Passos achieve a politicized form? If not, in what ways does Dos Passos subvert and undercut the potential political implications of his novel?

  9. 9

    Analyze the treatment of time in the novel. Dos Passos makes frequent use of ellipsis and compression; he also lingers on particular moments much as Woolf, or for that matter a poet, might. What conclusions can you draw?

  10. 10

    "I dunno... Pretty far." As simple a closing line as can be, and yet its implications are ambiguous and complex. Discuss.

  11. 11

    Consider the treatment of women in the novel. How do females fare in Dos Passos's world, and in what ways can his vision of New York be considered feminine?