Thursday, January 20, 2022

The "General Slocum" in John Dos Passos's "Manhattan Transfer"

A few lines after being called "Mother McCree" by the man behind the lunchroom counter, the unnamed woman in John Dos Passos's "Manhattan Transfer" complains to Joe Harland (whom she has just met) about how she's being treated and then offers a fragment of her story: "Oh mister if my poor husband was aloive, he wouldn't let em treat me loike they do. I lost my husband on the General Slocum might ha been yesterday." Like "Mother McCree", the reference to "the General Slocum" is another rabbit hole to go down: it was a paddlewheel steamboat that sank in the East River on 15 June 1904; over a thousand people died. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 20 January 2022)

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