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The Masculine Crisis In Manhattan Transfer

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2. Constant Vigilance! The Masculine Crisis in Manhattan Transfer Affect is crucial to understanding Dos Passos’s approach to characterization because of how he chooses to express his characters’ thoughts and feelings. Frequent use of stream of consciousness and infrequent use of precise physical or mental descriptions forces readers to assume almost everything about the characters. Often, we have to interpret their vocal tones or physical actions for ourselves based purely on dialogue alone, but with the way dialogue unfolds, many times the readers are following characters as they come to realizations themselves. Affect which Figlerowicz defines as “how much more quickly our brains might work than we consciously know them to,” accurately…show more content…
Slowly but surely, Emile has adjusted on the arms of Madame Rigaud, a foreigner herself but one who has already mastered the system. His affair with her leads him to desert his partner in crime, Congo, a symbol of Emile’s origins; we never see the two together again. Rather we see Emile attempting to conform to this Western man point of view: the man who values material items. In the last scene where this couple appears, Emile is fretting over yet another case of the fire bug, but rather than worry about the supposed love of his life, the woman he cannot wait to marry, he asks her, “But you are insured, aint you?” (97). He has learned the value of the thing. In the end, he still thinks that his way to Madame’s heart is through her own things, by showing her that he can take care of her things or that he values her things above her safety. However, Emile in return becomes one of her things. Her “p’tit ambitieux” and nothing more (Dos Passos 97). His masculinity at this point has become nothing more than a thing for her to manipulate; he feels as if he has a good hold on it, but in reality, she is the one fully in control. As a more experienced foreigner she has still managed to play this game better than Emile. He falls victim to Manhattan’s “ruthless competition and greed and material success” (Lane…show more content…
Emile’s struggles are purely business, financial business, and if he keeps focusing on business, he can protect his heart without turning towards isolation like many of the aforementioned men. He can have a beneficial (perhaps sexual) romantic relationship and never feel a single thing. The constant motif of fire throughout Manhattan Transfer may be a metaphor for the rampaging sexuality of the 1920s since sex, like fire, is a “destructive” force in any form (Hughson 192). Its destructive power is meant to elicit a response from those that watch it, typical fear or pleasure in the case of the firebug since “they hang round...to watch it” (Dos Passos 13). Emile’s response shifts directly from pity (“Everyting awright…”) to asking about Madame’s insurance in the same line (Dos Passos
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