Short Story #156: The Body of an American by John Dos Passos

Title:  The Body of an American 

Author:  John Dos Passos


Book cover: he Bedside Book of Famous American Short Stories edited by Angus Burrell and Bennett A. CerfThe story is a dedication of sorts to the John Does, the names bodies found in battle who fought and died and therein, lost their identify as well as those with names but become nearly nameless in their overwhelming mass of dead bodies that were accumulated in World War I.  These many different soldiers from their many different lives have both similar and different lives in America and soon went off to training and eventually war as teenagers and 20-somethings.  Many of them died and were brought back in the indistinguishable pine boxes and decorated with flowers by many who sent them off to war in the first place.  


The story feels often more in the tradition of Walt Whitman's introduction to Leaves of Grass than a full-blooded story.   And it's equally powerful in that regard.  It plays with prose, conjoining words, which adds an element of rushing and quickness.  This speed can represent the speed at which they were shipped off the war, the speed at which they died, and the speed at which their deaths were forgotten.  

Short Story #156 out of 365
Rating:  4 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read: 6/1/2014 
Source:  The Bedside Book of Famous American Short Stories edited by Angus Burrell and Bennett A. Cerf.  Random House, 1936.   The story can also be found on this website.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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