Chamberlain was among those who signed a letter of protest against the Communist Party’s disruption of a Socialist rally in New York City in February 1934. The letter appeared in the 6 March issue of the New Masses. Dos Passos had also signed, along with Edmund Wilson, Lionel Trilling, and twenty-one others. In this review essay Chamberlain places Adventures of a Young Man in the political context of Dos Passos’s career as a writer.
When John Dos Passos was leaving Moscow in 1928 a group of young Soviet actors from the Sanitary Propaganda Theatre (they were factory workers by daytime) came to him to see him off. They want to say goodbye,’ the theater director told Dos Passos; ‘they like you very much, but they want to ask you one question. They want you to show your face. They want to know where you stand politically. Are you with us?’
One who knows Dos Passos can imagine him standing there in the cold northern twilight, the piston-rods of the engine already pumping slowly beside him…. Scrupulously polite, given to deprecatory gestures, he starts up like a flushed partridge, his baldish head bobbing, his near-sighted eyes soft with pleased surprise. He wants to be kind, to make a gesture of solidarity, yet there is something in him goading him on, as always, to the absolute truth. ‘But let me see,’ he fumbles; ‘but maybe I can explain…. But in so short a time…there’s no time.’ No time to tell about the Bill of Rights and Thomas Jefferson and Liberty,