For anticommunist critics, if a text was characteristically
unequivocal it was clinging uselessly, even childishly, to a foregone
aesthetic. If it was equivocal, then it might be said to have depth,
complexity, individuality, humanity, and--most important--credibility;
it might be a book for its times. There was much talk of Dos Passos'
move from left to right, yet little of it had anything to say about
how the shift in political view might or might not support the
maintenance of the form. Even among those critics who found the
conservative District of Columbia trilogy lacking in comparison
to the leftist (though mostly anticommunist) U.S.A., there were
few who noticed a qualitative shift. I would suggest that the anti-
anticommunist critic was in the best position to see just this. John
Lyndenberg, a socialist, was one. In "Dos Passos and the Ruined Words"
(1951) Lydenberg argued that Dos Passos' politics had rendered his
modernist naturalism inappropriate, since the particular anticommunism
of District of Columbia required an evaluation of character's
choices and actions; the radicalism of U.S.A. was in its
disclosure of forces controlling people. But in District of
Columbia, Lydenberg noticed, the naturalistic form persisted while
the aesthetic idea had shift toward "individual responsibility." Thus
formally Dos Passos was working at cross purposes and the result is
equivocality. Here, then, is a left critic who sees equivocality as a
deficit. U.S.A., its form and political philosophy compatible,
"leaves an unequivocal effect."