A grimly realistic depiction of army life, the story follows a trio of idealistic young men as they contend with the regimentation, violence, and boredom of military service during the First World War. Fuselli, a store clerk from San Francisco, embraces conformity in the hope of gaining a promotion to impress his hometown sweetheart. Chrisfield, an easygoing Indiana farm boy, and Andrews, a gifted musician, are repelled by the army's mind-numbing routines and battlefield horrors. Vivid and moving in its exploration of warfare's dehumanizing effects, this powerful novel remains chillingly contemporary in its relevance.
As Dos Passos' first major novel, it speaks eloquently of the dignity yet helplessness of the individual caught up in the maelstrom of war and the military machine.