Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Mary Clarke, Hugh Agee, Willson Wood

Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


This thesis is devoted primarily to examining existential factors present in Three Soldiers and The Naked and the Dead, but it is evident that naturalism and Marxism make their presence known in both novels. Three Soldiers and The Naked and the Dead suggest through their existential overtones that indeed existentialism is a vital force which is clearly exerting itself in twentieth-century literature.

This study supports the viewpoint of a growing number of modern authors’ works which have concentrated on the individual’s struggle to find meaning and fulfillment in a complex world – a world of nuclear devices, campus unrest, global strife, military conquest, and racial turmoil from the existential point of view. Man’s only salvation is to reject society’s institutions and create an atmosphere which enables individual rights and freedom. Dos Passos, Mailer, and Sartre have been pleading the case of self-actualization and self-realization for years, plans that seem more relevant in the 1960’s than in the decades when they were written.

This investigation of existential attitudes in John Dos Passos’ Three Soldiers and Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead is by no means exhaustive. Certainly more investigation may be carried out on existential elements and attitudes in twentieth-century American literature.


Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature | Literature in English, North America | Social and Behavioral Sciences