The structure of The Big Money is not divided into traditional numbered or thematically named chapters. In the table of contents, each chapter in the novel is identified by the character whose point of view directs the chapter and comprises a "Newsreel," a "The Camera Eye," and/or a narrative section. The newsreel and camera eye sections emphasize the novel's most important thematic ideas. Chapter 1: Charley Anderson
Lieutenant Charley Anderson, war ace, returns to America on a ship from France. He looks forward to being home. In "Newsreel XLIV," the repetition of the lyric "Yankee doodle" juxtaposed against capitalized headlines such as "DEADLOCK UNBROKEN AS FIGHT SPREADS" as well as against a journalistic piece about "democratic rights" being trampled shows the crumbling of America from within. Chapter 2: Charley Anderson
Charley finds a room at a hotel, then gets a drink with his friend Ollie Taylor. At a dinner party, Charley enjoys the company of pretty young Doris Humphries. In "Newsreel XLV," lyrics also illustrate the power women have over men as a "St. Louis woman wid her diamon' rings / Pulls dat man aroun' by her apron strings." This section reveals how women influence men's buying behaviors in their pursuit of "social prestige." With this commentary, headlines reveal violence: a "DAYLIGHT HOLDUP," a "MAN SLAIN," a "DESPERATE REVOLVER BATTLE." The "American Plan" begins with the image of Frederick Winslow Taylor, a pioneering efficiency expert. While attending Harvard, "he broke down from overwork [so] the doctor suggested manual labor." Taylor became a machinist and gradually worked his way through the ranks to become chief engineer of Pennsylvania's Midvale Iron Works Plant. Obsessed with production, he developed the "Taylor System of Scientific Management," and although he "increased efficiency" for Bethlehem Steel, he was fired. Eventually, Taylor had a breakdown and died of pneumonia "with a watch in his hand" in 1915 on his fifty-ninth birthday. "Newsreel XLVI" focuses on men returning from World War I with headlines like "EXSERVICE MEN DEMAND JOBS." The lyrics, "No one knows / No one cares if I'm weary / Oh how soon they forgot Château-Thierry," express the emotions of ex-soldiers. Irony comes with the headline "PROSPERITY FOR ALL SEEN ASSURED," as returning servicemen struggle to find their place in this world and "assured" success. The narrator of "The Camera Eye (43)" is unknown, yet the "eye" offers a string of memories that affect the narrator physically and emotionally; for example his "throat tightens when the redstacked steamer churning the faintlyheaving slatecolored swell" and his "spine stiffens with the remembered chill of the offshore Atlantic." By connecting images of food, the hustle-bustle of the daily commute, and eventually of "shantytowns," the narrator provides a stark contrast between the quintessential image of American "home" and white-collar success to negative, even realistic, images of American life. Finally, life ends "in the old graveyard by the brokendown brick church" and by pulling in one final image of a soldier returning home from France after many "hated years in the latrinestench at Brocourt." "Newsreel XLVII" focuses on prospects society in a series of advertisements: "boy seeking future offered opportunity good positions for bright CHANCE FOR ADVANCEMENT boy to learn errand boy." The lyrics in this section represent the boy's response to these employment calls: "Oh tell me how long / I'll have to wait / / Do I get it now / Or must I hesitate / / Oh tell me how long." "The Camera Eye (44)" views an "unnamed arrival" from the Foreign Legion returning to Manhattan. In New York, he is in a completely different world and is "stuffed into a boiled shirt a tailcoat too small a pair of dresstrousers too large," as if it is a "forsomebodyelsetailored suit." This young man is offered an "opportunity," because of his supposed skill with a...