Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Open Access Thesis


English Language and Literatures

First Advisor

Catherine Keyser


The beginning of the 20th century in America featured the rapid economic and infrastructural development of New York City, recently dubbed the “second metropolis.” The technological advancements in electric power and automobility made it possible, and economically desirable, for a larger and larger community to have access to the promise of good fortune that being connected to the metropolis signified. The result of this promise was the formation of the subway system and the highway system. Both John Dos Passos’ Manhattan Transfer and John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath explore the space between these poles. In this essay I argue that these two novels explore how the infrastructural systems of the metropolis and the highway attempt to funnel human affects into desires that reinforce the power of capital and commerce. These affects, however, resist the desires reified by said structures, ultimately resulting in, for Manhattan Transfer, explosive rejection of the structures themselves or, for The Grapes of Wrath, reapplication of those structures for alternative modes of sociality.