Passos and H.D.

My first thought when starting “The Body of an American” was that the syntax was similar to that of e.e. cummings. All of the words in the first paragraph are squished together, like in some of Cummings’ poems. Although “The Body of an American” is written in prose, it sometimes reads like poetry, which makes it difficult for me to read. Also like Cummings, this reading deals with the subject of war. Passos emphasizes the dehumanization involved with fighting in a war. With the quote “Naked he went into the army” (2348), I got the sense that the soldiers were not only being stripped of their clothes, but of their humanity as well. When John Doe dies, he cannot be identified and is given a generic funeral service, again stripping him of his identity. The squished words in the first paragraph suggest that the people doing the service are just going through the motions, and do not really care about the man who died fighting for his country.

“Trilogy” has a slightly more optimistic tone, while also dealing with the subject of war. The narrator says “we know no rule/ of procedure,/ we are voyagers, discoverers/ of the not-known,/ the unrecorded;/ we have no map;/ possibly we will reach haven,/ heaven” (43, lines 25-32). Although this suggests a sense of chaos and uncertainty (like “The Body of an American”), there is also a sense of hope that was not present in the previous readings that dealt with war.

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