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This man's army, this man's town

Posted by Pamela on May 18, 2006

In Reply to: This man's army, this man's town posted by Smokey Stover on May 16, 2006

: : Is there anybody interested in and familiar with Dos Passos's "BIG MONEY"?
: : I can't understand the meaning of "man" in the following phrases:
: : 1. "I'm fed up with this man's army, I guess."
: : 2. " I was just wondering what a feller could do with himself in this man's town.
: : I appreciate your assistance.

: John Dos Passos (1896-1970) is one of America's important writers. He is sometimes said to belong to a "lost generation," and brought new literary techniques to his work. He was a ceaseless social commentator, although not without bringing nuance to his views. During World War I he served in France as an ambulance driver, as did his friend, E.E. Cummings. "Big Money" is the third part of his "U.S.A." trilogy, which was published in 1938, during the Big Depression and not long before World War II began in Europe (September 1939).

: In Dos Passos' time, "this man" could have the normal meaning, that is, a reference to a particular named antecedent, or it could be used to mean "I" or "me." I last read "U.S.A." eons ago, and only got as far as the middle of "1919." "This man's army" could mean President Wilson's army, it might be a sarcastic gibe at some recruiting slogan, or it could mean "the army that I was in."

: The meaning of "in this man's town" is not clear without more context. Is there an antecedent? I don't think he meant "in my town."

: Let me give you an example or two of "this man" as I or me. "In this man's opinion, it's all rubbish." (In my opinion....} "To this man, war will always be hell." One can substitute other nouns. "To this editor, his submission seemed of lesser quality than unorganized junk." I'm not arguing that Dos Passos used "this man" to mean I or my in either example, only that the usage existed. SS

In the army there are traditionally "officers" and "men", so "this man's army" also refers to "everyman's" army in a way that reflects the use of the word man in phrases like "the man in the street". Pamela

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