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Three Soldiers

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  1,084 ratings  ·  124 reviews
A searing novel exposing the fate of the common soldier during World War I. Driven by the idealism that infected many young Americans at the time (including Ernest Hemingway), author John Dos Passos joined the Ambulance Corps. His rapid and profound disillusionment forms the core of this fierce denouncement of the military and of the far-reaching social implications of its ...more
Paperback, 362 pages
Published 2006 by Hard Press (first published 1921)
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antiquarian reverie I found out. The Y is the YMCA. I had no idea the long historical connections that the YMCA had with the military.

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antiquarian reverie
I was drawn to Three Soldiers after hearing an old time radio show that brings literature to the airways & wanting to know the whole book as John Dos Passos intended. I have always enjoyed a good war story either written or on film when the human element is brought to light & in this novel I was not disappointed. This not a book just about the world war 1, but it is about the American experience in that war seen through a man that was young American, that volunteered his services before America' ...more

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
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
Jan 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
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
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
"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
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
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.
Erik Graff
Jan 30, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: WWI fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: literature
I read this novel, based on the author's experiences as a volunteer ambulance driver in WWI, at grandmother's cottage in SW Michigan because I had been mightily impressed by his USA trilogy. Sadly, I was disappointed, but then it was only his second novel. ...more
Larry Bassett
Jul 22, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war, audio, kindle
I have been listening to several John Dos Passos books recently. I am still waiting for one to really grab me like I had expected them to. They all seem somewhat dated and I wondered how they were when people read them at the time they were written. This book was published in 1921. Events in this book are during and just after World War One.

It is about American soldiers in France. None of the story actually happens in the trenches that are the famous WWI setting. In fact the armistice is about h
Feb 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In Three Soldiers, John Dos Passos presents a raw depiction of the American experience in the First World War, devoid of any idealism whatever. This novel is presented in six parts, with titles such as "Making the Mould" (Part One), "Machines" (Part Three), and "Rust" (Part Four). The theme of a soldier being treated like a machine resonates throughout the novel, and we sense the futility of trying to push against the mechanistic power of the military. The narrative relates the experiences of th ...more
Adam Smith
May 13, 2014 rated it it was ok
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.


The book starts with the Italian kid fr
Feb 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
John Dos Passos is considered by many to be one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. Jean-Paul Sartre considered him the best. Passos is part of the "Lost Generation", the generation of young men (and writers) that grew up with World War I. Like Hemingway (at one time a close friend of Passos), he served in the ambulance corps during WWI. "Three Soldiers" is about WWI and paints the impact of the war in dark, despairing tones. Like an impressionist painter, the context is vividly dr ...more
Jerry Pogan
Oct 15, 2019 rated it liked it
This one just never made it for me. All of the action was in the first and last parts of the book with an endless boring section in the middle. The book focused on three soldier with the first part mostly featuring Fuselli then going with mostly Chrisfield and Andrews in the middle and eventually focusing on Andrews toward the last section. The book started off good describing young men anxious to join the army to fight in WWI hoping for glory like what they saw in the movies, but what they foun ...more
Jul 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mark Fallon
Oct 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the great joys in my life are the friends who send me books. Thankful to my friend, Steve, for sending me this classic.

A peer of Hemingway and Faulkner, Dos Passos shares a story based on his own experience as an ambulance driver in World War I. The tone of his book is less like others in the Lost Generation, and more like Kurt Vonnegut and Tim O'Brien, veterans of wars that came after "the war to end all wars".
R.L. Robinson
Apr 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Passos wrote primarily for a select audience. As a result, it can take a bit of time to find a way into his work.
It's the same case here, but I've seldom read something that was so anti-war, written at a time when the anti-war movement was in its infancy, just after the end of the Great War.
Jul 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: us, novels
This is my favorite book on war I have ever read, which says a lot since I hate war and I generally don't like books on it. Hemingway, eat your heart out! ...more
Les Robinson
Mar 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Hemmingway totally rips this off for A Farewell to Arms which isn't half as good as this one. A classic modern novel of WWI. ...more
David Cain
Sep 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, brilliant, thought-provoking and inciting, this personal argument against society, civilization and war will never stop digging at cherished illusions and demanding answers.
Jun 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very depressing but wonderful view into World War I, what military service can do to people, and the changes engendered that can change the course of their lives.
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hauntingly beautiful....this is not a thriller per se.....but I truly enjoyed it and the ending....blew me away.
Rob Christopher
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So fresh, so vivid. A masterpiece.
William Haverinen
Jan 07, 2021 rated it liked it
It is mostly about one World War 1 soldier, written in 1921. He is a Harvard grad, a musician, in the war as an enlisted man. There was less emphasis than I expected on the experiences in battle, but the chapters on the war were powerful. Three Soldiers is more about about the loss of freedom one experiences in the army, which brought back memories of my experience as a Vietnam era draftee. I guess when published the book was controversial in its realistic, non-romantic view of the common soldie ...more
Amory Ross
Three Soldiers is a war journey that follows three soldiers, although only one gets heavy focus. In brief: it has a Hemingway style with a Remarque view of The Great War. Despite some of these shortcomings, Dos Passos message is unmistakable in its pessimism.

While Dos Passos is regarded as one of the best writers in American history, this focus in World War I felt unfinished. The characters are evenly distributed across the American map, and each of them have monumental struggles toward success.
Scott Stirling
May 31, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christopher Sutch
Jul 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Although there are undeniable moments of brilliance Dos Passos's first novel, there are also serious and tedious issues with it. What he did well was some truly remarkable thinking about the implications of the basic training-indoctrination process on individual and mass psychology. Much of what he writes, especially early in the novel where he compares the soldiers produced for World War I in America to mass-produced, assembly line commodities, anticipates the thinking of some of the Frankfurt ...more
May 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-owned
3.5 stars. Dos Passos' Three Soldiers was the first great American novel of the Great War, but it isn't actually about the war itself. There are no long descriptions of trench warfare or battles. Instead, it's about the men who stumble into the war -- searching for escape, or for direction, or for a career, or for adventure, or for an Ideal -- only to discover they had been sold a bill of goods. Instead of making the world safe for Democracy, they found themselves "slaves" in a mechanized system ...more
Jan 10, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Mar 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: world-war-1
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
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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

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