Three Soldiers
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Three Soldiers

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3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  502 ratings  ·  58 reviews
The shock of the First World War defined the twentieth century for John Dos Passos and many others of his generation. After serving in a French volunteer ambulance service and then with the American Army in France, Dos Passos wrote his novel Three Soldiers (1921). The novel follows the intersecting lives of three Americans as they suffer the war's monotonous and dehumanizi...more
Paperback, 430 pages
Published December 31st 2004 by Barnes & Noble (first published 1921)
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Kim

John Dos Passos was politicized by his experiences of war. During World War I he served as an ambulance driver in Italy and France and his experiences led him to become a Communist. Later, his experiences during the Spanish Civil War caused him to become disenchanted with the left and his politics became increasingly conservative during the 1950s.

When this novel was published in 1921, it caused a sensation. A direct result of Dos Passos’ World War I experiences, it’s a passionate anti-war polem...more
Eric
One of the reviews on this site said reading Three Soldiers is like watching a movie, “the best kind of movie.” One that doesn’t explain its images or dilute the story with too much exposition. Terrence Malick in his 1970s prime directed this in my head. Malick’s storytelling style would fit the austere and oblique parts of Three Soldiers, and the novel’s big theme of desertion would jive with one of Malick’s favorite motifs: the freebooting idylls of fugitives living it up before doom closes in...more
Trevor
In the end you are fundamentally alone and no matter how much you would like to imagine that others could complete you or even just understand you, the saddest truth is that even this is far too much to ask.

If this review is to have no spoilers, then this must be a kind of non-review. However, in some ways this review might tell you more about this novel than any other I could write.

This is a painfully sad story, a realist novel told about First World War – so pain is obligatory. The guiding met...more
Melki
There were once three soldiers of The Great War. And three characters that I can't say I really cared about. Maybe it's because after 450+ pages, I still hadn't figured out what made them tick. What makes that odd is that they spent the entire book lost in introspection and talking about themselves.

They did a lot of eating and talking about what they missed about home. They huddled up to keep warm and discussed how they couldn't wait to get to the front. Then they drank cognac at small cafes an...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I wanted to read a World War I novel. Instead, I read a novel about some men who hated the army. dos Passos would have served his audience better had he provided some detail that leads to these men hating the army. There is some complaint that all they do is go on marches, although we're never there when they actually *do* go on marches. Yep, the army needs its men kept busy, to work as a unit, and to gain physical strength - they still do this and it still works. And, somehow, dos Passos seemed...more
KOMET
"Three Soldiers" is one of the earliest novels to come out of the First World War to express the disgust and disillusionment felt by many Americans who had participated in it.

Dos Passos (who had served as an ambulance driver in Italy during the war) introduces the reader to 3 distinctive characters who are representative of America's diversity. First, there's Chrisfield, an Indiana farmboy who's a bit rough round the edges and always spoiling for a fight. Second, there is Dan Fuselli, a first g...more
Tim Weakley
My first experience with Dos Passos and I am looking forward to reading 1919 now. It really reminded me of The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, not in subject but in outlook and desperation of character. Each of the three soldiers ends up in his own desperate straits and finds their own way to a conclusion. What happens to them during the war and how their inner fortitude or lack of it help or hinder their progress makes for a heartbreaking story.
Adam Smith
Three Soldiers more like Three Pretentious Assholes. I realize that Dos Passos was giving his perspective of the war and his distaste for the military. The writing style was nicely portrayed but the characters were disappointing. I'm pretty sure that the only trees that Dos Passos is aware of are poplars. If there is ever a mention of the scenery, (and there are quite a few) he always mentions poplars. There could be a drinking game made out of it.

*Spoiler*

The book starts with the Italian kid fr...more
Spencer
This is the second novel by John Dos Passos that I have read, the first being "One Man's Initiation:1917". Already his antiwar views are hardening and are quite evident in the advancement of this book. I also enjoyed his treatment of the environment in which the action takes place. Even in the midst of battle he finds beauty in nature, and in the villages and cities of France. I could understand that he was seeing the world as a painter, which he would later become.
It is a story of three young...more
Veronica
After reading Dos Passos’ USA trilogy in December, 2010, I sang his praises and looked forward to reading more of his work. I added Three Soldiers to my second list of 100 books and after finding it under my Christmas tree this year, was intent on its perusal.

Given my evident admiration for Dos Passos, I gave it an atypical two-week schedule as I wanted to savor every word. I am sorry to say, I was a tad disappointed as it was not the second masterpiece I had hoped for, and I think it was longer...more
Walter
I had high hopes for "Three Soldiers", but I was mildly disappointed by it. This novel was written by John Dos Passos based on his own experience as a soldier in the First World War. It is the story of three soldiers in France during and immediately after the war who struggle with being soldiers in France. One of the soldiers serves relatively honorably in the trenches, one of them becomes a student at the Sorbonne on a soldiers' scholarship program, and one of the soldiers goes off the deep end...more
Charles Vella
I read this right before I read Three Comrades. I probably would have felt better about this one if I hadn't read Three Comrades but the comparison of two such similar books was too much and Three Soldiers seemed more disappointing the further I got into Three Comrades. That is too bad because the story is an interesting twist on what I expected. I thought it was about the war (WWI) but it was mostly about the Army. The majority of the book took place with soldiers waiting to get to the war or w...more
Fred
John Dos Passos is a great novelist, one of the great American novelists of the early 20th century. But this is not a great novel. It lacks a dramatic structure that can keep the reader going and the dialogue is weak. Though it is about "Three Soldiers" it almost reads like three short stores and there is very little about battle. Still, it is an authentic novel of the post World War 1 generation and the issues that he addresses -- loneliness, emptiness, conflicted patriotism, despair -- are dee...more
Devon Aguirre
I was drawn to this book to try and get a more detailed look at the lives of the soldiers in World War I. It did give a description somewhat of how military life was back then but it mostly turned out to be a long drawn out political rant. I was very curious about John Dos Passos and then I read this and it makes me never want to read something by him again. The story was very disjointed and felt like a diary that had all the headers removed. It was hard to keep track of where the characters wer...more
John Freeman
Called one of the key American war novels of the First World War, I expected Three Soldiers to be set in the trenches of France. Instead, most of the book’s action takes place in the cafes and bars, boarding rooms and salons, fields and gardens of post-WWI Paris. Instead of being a novel about combat, it’s about a soldier’s recognition of the importance of freedom. Dos Passos “…documents the dehumanizing effects of militarization,” or so it says on the John Dos Passos website.

While we get a peek...more
Thom Swennes
Remarkable! I am surprised that Three Soldiers by John Dos Passos isn’t better well known or more widely read. It is a companion to, yet drastically different from, to All Quiet on the Western Front. Both stories trace the life and fortunes of a group young men fighting in the trenches of World War I. Passos hasn’t attempted to describe or relay the horrors of trench warfare but never-the-less succeeds in relating the hopelessness, degradations and stress that all soldiers suffer in all wars. Th...more
Mark
I was lead to John Dos Passos through reading a biography of Jean Paul Sartre. Sartre loved this sad novel that follows three American Soldiers serving in France during World War I.

Dos Passos based it on his own experience in 'the war to end all wars' and he doesn't paint a pretty or noble picture of military service. It's also a wonderful portrait of France and especially Parisian life. Dos Passos shows how those who haven't experienced the horrors of war or had to live under authoritarian ser...more
Charles
I am a victim of my own arrogance and a state college education. I read the reviews of the literate and mumble to myself in frustrated envy. I swear I'll do better, but I'm too impulsive and passionate to restrain my energy into coherence. Even when I think I've been clear, time and a reread prove I've babbled and left out a key word or failed to include a whole knot of related thoughts.

I went to Three Soldiers thinking I might find a book akin to Oil. I loved the rattling of the ogliarchy's ca...more
Mark Carley
I read this one on CD while traveling. Another entry in my current kick for early 20th Century literature. This is an anti-war book, telling the stories of three soldiers (hence the title) in World War I. What's different is that the focus is not so much on the horror and gore of war (although there is some of that), but on the genrally dehumanizing nature of military life. Dos Passos, I think, is commenting on the stifling nature of society in general. His setting could as easily be a corporate...more
Lars
Dos Passos's novel of American soldiers serving in the "Great War" eschews depictions of combat, but delivers an indictment of the bereaucracy, paternalism and jingoistism of military culture. The story of John Andrews is the main thread of the "Three Soldeirs," but his experience is given context and depth alongside the diverging paths of his early companions, Dan Fuselli and Chris Chrisfield. That Andrews was a musician before the war is key, emphasizing the aspects of human militarization tha...more
Bobby
I have heard that this is almost biographical as well as one of John Dos Passos' best novels and I can now say both thoughts are true. Although three soldiers are discussed this is mostly a story of John Andrews and his confusion of being sent to a War where his ethics and morals are tested along with his self worth. His cohorts constantly mis-advise him and are a continuous source for making wrong choices until he makes one horrible mistake on his own. This is not an easy read but it was writte...more
Carrie
I only made it part-way through this book. I liked the characters enough, however there were so many that I had a hard time keeping track of them. I'd find myself trying to associate names with profiles/histories and it detracted from the flow of the story, which on another note, seemed to go nowhere. It gave a sense of both the fear and ardor of the "men" pre-war, however the atmosphere seemed dull, it hopped too much from one character to another for my liking, and totally lacked any type of p...more
Bill Lively
This work deals with the futility and stupidity of war. The setting is World War I. It seems to me that the ending of the story indicates that Dos Passos also was pointing out the futility of life in general.
Cody VC
(read this on gutenberg, so idk what the edition is.)

disappointingly uneven; had potential, didn't follow through. i mostly agree with this review, highfalutin' as it is, because i ended up skimming through the last third (which was nearly all andrews) - the character felt more like a prop than a person.

certainly has some great atmosphere in the pre-war scenes and at the front. it shows that this guy knows what he's talking about and that he has the writing skill to present it with a bit more be...more
Charles Samuels
Dos Passos does an excellent job of capturing the seemingly endless routine of tedium, discipline, and terror a soldier faces while serving in wartime. Yet he goes further to show how bureaucracy and discipline, though necessary to military order, may also strip an individual of his sense of self. Some can take it, some will be crushed, and some will rebel, but all are changed dramatically by the experience.

Though my Barnes & Noble Books edition contained an egregious number of typos, I fou...more
John
Great story. I think Dos Passos deserves to be on the same shelf as Hemingway and Fitzgerald. If anything his novels seem to have more lasting appeal. I reread Hemingway and Fitzgerald a few years ago (I was in my early 60s then) and was really struck by what "young men's" stories they were. This story seems to have as much appeal now as it did when I first read Dos Passos in my late teens.

The story, about the stifling of the human spirit by the regimentation of the military and coming Soviet Co...more
Jerry
Listen, this book has some of the most beautifully written prose I've ever read, but the characters are self centered, lazy, selfish, not likeable, and cowardly. I understand about disillusionment brought about by war; I'm a veteran myself, but for goodness sake, be men! The characters in this story did not even spend that much time facing the real horrors of war; the death, maiming, and carnage. They were all so caught up in themselves and looking to their own needs that they couldn't find the...more
Rick
Dos Passos’ Three Soldiers was his second work, released when he was but 25 years of age. A view of World War I as seen through the experiences of three different Americans, the narrative presents the bleakness of war… the mechanization of men and materials to grind out a result, and the effect on the human spirit. Dos Passos is depressing at times, his characters filled with disaffection. Published in 1921 this work was undoubtedly a major event, but it lost some of its influence with the passi...more
Michael
A somewhat misleading title. Though Dos Passos does focus on the experiences of three American soldiers fighting in the Great War, one of them assumes importance and garners significantly more words over the other two. That this character, John Andrews, is really the only self-aware one of the three creates a slight imbalance on Dos Passos' canvas -- I found myself getting a little weary of Andrews' temporary freedom in Paris after Armistice. But Three Soldiers finds its footing again and reache...more
Josh
Most of the great American modernist books are forgotten, passed over for Faulkner (eh) and Hemingway (double eh). But Three Soldiers is doubly neglected, because to the (very limited) extent that people still rad Dos Passos, it's pretty much Manhattan Crossing and the U.S.A trilogy. The trilogy is wonderful, but I prefer Three Soldiers -- the sociological observation is still leavened by a romantic sensibility. And WWI is the best possible illustration of the transformation of American society...more
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4778
John Roderigo Dos Passos was an American novelist and artist.

He received a first-class education at The Choate School, in Connecticut, in 1907, under the name John Roderigo Madison. Later, he traveled with his tutor on a tour through France, England, Italy, Greece and the Middle East to study classical art, architecture and literature.

In 1912 he attended Harvard University and, after graduating in...more
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The 42nd Parallel U.S.A. Manhattan Transfer 1919 The Big Money

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“... life is to be used, not just held in the hand like a box of bonbons that nobody eats.” 4 likes
“But how glum he looks now." She threw some daisies at him. Then, after a pause, she added mockingly: "It's hunger, my dear. Good Lord, how dependent men are on food!” 0 likes
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