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It became more imperative for Vonnegut to bring in more money. Within 10 years following the arrival of the Adams boys, the short-story market was drying up and Vonnegut turned his attention to novels. In these books, Vonnegut mastered his trademark black comic voice, making his audience laugh despite the horrors he described. He had already developed a cult following of college students, but he broke through to a mass audience with Slaughterhouse-Five and the excellent film version of the novel that soon followed. By the early s, Vonnegut was one of the most famous living writers on earth.
Yet, the s proved a difficult time for Vonnegut.
BRUTE FORCE CRITICISM (page references from the l971 Dell rpt.):
After his children grew up and left home, his long marriage to Jane fell apart. His son, Mark, suffered a bipolar disorder breakdown early in the decade, but recovered to write a book about it called The Eden Express. While not altogether successful as fiction, these books helped Vonnegut work through the emotional problems that had plagued him since childhood. In the s, Vonnegut entered a second major phase of his career. Vonnegut also published his third major collection of essays, Palm Sunday.
Kurt Vonnegut died on April 11, , after a fall on the steps of his New York brownstone. It seemed to be amusing and lighten the whole enterprise. This was better than a transplant of monkey glands for a man of my age.
Kurt Vonnegut Research Paper — Adam Cap
We knew he was someone special; I thought, from my first encounter, he was the most original contemporary novelist I had read. When he returned to West Barnstable on Cape Cod for the summer, Jane found out about his affair, but nothing seemed to change beyond a glacially slow deterioration of their marriage. It is in this context that dissenting voices about Vonnegut practising what he preached emerged from some family members and friends, who have gone on record to contradict the image of him as some soft-hearted, clownish sage with stories of his temper and impatience.
Violent mood swings are also a well-known behavioural trait of someone with post-traumatic stress disorder. He returned to Iowa in August , but a year later a Guggenheim Fellowship grant meant he could leave for a research trip to Dresden and Eastern Europe. He also received an admiring letter from an editor turned publisher, Sam Lawrence. He approached Lawrence in Boston, who offered him a -three-book deal and bought the rights to his previous books.
Vonnegut and tens of thousands of Americans marched for two days to Gerolstein, where they were squeezed into boxcars — 60 men in each, with floor covered in cow dung. Loading the men took two whole days and over Christmas week the train moved them from one POW camp to another. A few weeks later were selected to go on work detail in Dresden.
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As Slaughterhouse-Five reminds us, the German military and residents of Dresden believed it was safe from major bombing raids because it had no strategic value and was so treasured as an area of world-renowned beauty. The scenes of their wretched existence were cut with views of medieval churches and the stucco pastels of baroque halls, while their starvation ached to the sound of the anthems of the Hitler Youth, who massed in front of giant swastikas draped over the facades of municipal buildings.
On Shrove Tuesday — 13 February — the weather lifted as children prepared for carnival. Air raid sirens wailed at 9.
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The Americans joined the hanging beef in the Schlachthof underground with only four German soldiers, who shut the steel door behind them. Sheer walls of heat blockaded the city. Within, the tornado of fire created by the incendiary bombs was so intense that the air crews could feel the heat from 8, feet up. A second wave of RAF bombers attacked three hours after the first. Vonnegut moved rubble and located the dead in basements. Mardi Gras had become a grotesque parade, the streets filled with charred corpses frozen in time, with remains of children in fancy dress and dead animals everywhere — even the horror of people boiled alive after diving into water tanks and fountains.
In the afternoon a third wave of aircraft, American B bombers, attacked the remains. The Americans were moved through this three-dimensional Bruegel painting to the barracks of South African POWs housed four miles south of the city centre. Modern historians believe 25, people died over the three days and , refugees fled the city.
On Thursday the POWs were instructed to help the clear-up: moving rubble, piling bodies and salvaging anything worthwhile. Over the next few weeks, the harder-to-reach bodies began to decompose and those hunting them were driven mad by the leaking viscera from families of disintegrating cadavers, so the Germans decided their only option was to incinerate them with flame throwers.
What Slaughterhouse-Five becomes is metafiction with a sigh. Billy is placed in a zoo on the planet Tralfamadore and partnered in captivity with an adult-film star, Montana Wildhack, with whom he has a child.
He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments past, present and future always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just the way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. Morality is out of joint, since doing something differently to change the future becomes irrelevant. So far, so zany. Once Billy learns to see as Tralfamadorians do, he moves from Germany to Ilium, New York and from his post-war life as an optometrist to captivity on a distant planet to childhood with his father to his escape from a plane crash and even his own death.
Morality is suddenly out of joint, since doing something differently to change the future becomes irrelevant. When Billy watches a war movie backwards, Vonnegut recounts the sight of bombs being sucked back into the bellies of aircraft, corpses coming back to life and crews returning safely to base.
The pace and simplicity of the telling is what makes it so moving. Vonnegut is a moralist, which would be impossible if he really believed in some kind of cosmic predestination. The purpose of this book is to open the mind like a flower: it is not there to teach doctrine.
BRIEF BIBLIOGRAPHY (arranged by date)
How can you decry ambiguity when we see where certainty led him and us? The simplest way out of such a predicament is to say that everybody is wrong but the author. But Vonnegut refuses. He ascribes no blame, sets no penalties One critic has argued that Vonnegut's most famous novel, Slaughterhouse-Five , features a metafictional , Janus-headed outlook as it seeks both to represent actual historical events while problematizing the very notion of doing exactly that.
This is encapsulated in the opening lines of the novel: "All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true. Vonnegut was a vocal critic of the society in which he lived, and this was reflected in his writings. Several key social themes recur in Vonnegut's works, such as wealth, the lack of it, and its unequal distribution among a society. In The Sirens of Titan , the novel's protagonist, Malachi Constant, is exiled to one of Saturn 's moons, Titan , as a result of his vast wealth, which has made him arrogant and wayward.
Rosewater , readers may find it difficult to determine whether the rich or the poor are in worse circumstances as the lives of both groups' members are ruled by their wealth or their poverty. Debs and Vonnegut's socialist views. Marvin states: "Vonnegut points out that, left unchecked, capitalism will erode the democratic foundations of the United States. He points out that social Darwinism leads to a society that condemns its poor for their own misfortune, and fails to help them out of their poverty because "they deserve their fate".
In Slaughterhouse-Five and Timequake the characters have no choice in what they do; in Breakfast of Champions , characters are very obviously stripped of their free will and even receive it as a gift; and in Cat's Cradle , Bokononism views free will as heretical. The majority of Vonnegut's characters are estranged from their actual families and seek to build replacement or extended families. For example, the engineers in Player Piano called their manager's spouse "Mom". In Cat's Cradle , Vonnegut devises two separate methods for loneliness to be combated: A "karass", which is a group of individuals appointed by God to do his will, and a " granfalloon ", defined by Marvin as a "meaningless association of people, such as a fraternal group or a nation".
Fear of the loss of one's purpose in life is a theme in Vonnegut's works. The Great Depression forced Vonnegut to witness the devastation many people felt when they lost their jobs, and while at General Electric, Vonnegut witnessed machines being built to take the place of human labor. He confronts these things in his works through references to the growing use of automation and its effects on human society. This is most starkly represented in his first novel, Player Piano , where many Americans are left purposeless and unable to find work as machines replace human workers.
Kurt Vonnegut Research Paper
Suicide by fire is another common theme in Vonnegut's works; the author often returns to the theory that "many people are not fond of life. He also uses this theme to demonstrate the recklessness of those who put powerful, apocalypse-inducing devices at the disposal of politicians. When one of Vonnegut's characters, Kilgore Trout, finds the question "What is the purpose of life?
Unless otherwise cited, items in this list are taken from Thomas F. Marvin's book Kurt Vonnegut: A Critical Companion , and the date in brackets is the date the work was first published: .