Both the Vonneguts and the Liebers were formerly prosperous families who had lost their fortunes after World War I. Vonnegut entered the University of Chicago in to study biochemistry. He began writing for the student newspaper in his sophomore year, penning anti-war articles. He was captured in the Battle of the Bulge, held as part of a captive labor force in Dresden, and experienced the Allied fire-bombing of the city on February 13, Like the protagonist in Slaughterhouse-Five , Vonnegut survived the bombing in an underground meat locker, only to be put to work by the Germans extracting corpses from the city's ruins.
Upon his return home in , he married Jane Marie Cox and enrolled at the University of Chicago, from which he graduated in In the same year, Vonnegut began working for General Electric Research Laboratory as a public relations writer. He wrote fiction in his spare time, publishing his first story in , and was soon able to quit his job and write full-time.
He began to attract popular attention in the s when his anti-war message made him a favored figure among the counter-culture; his popularity continued to increase after Slaughterhouse-Five was adapted as a film. He has seven children: Vonnegut lives in New York City. Vonnegut's first novel, Player Piano , did not attract popular or critical attention, but it established many of the traits which continue to typify the author's style. The novel is futuristic and explores the relationship between changing technology and the lives of ordinary humans.
His second work garnered greater critical reception. The Sirens of Titan is a science fiction parody in which all of human history is revealed to have been manipulated by aliens to provide a space traveler with a replacement part for his ship. Rosewater , exhibits Vonnegut's unique combination of black humor, wit, and pessimism. Cat's Cradle is an apocalyptic satire on philosophy, religion, and technological progress while God Bless You, Mr.
Rosewater concerns the idealistic attempts of an alcoholic philanthropist, Eliot Rosewater, to befriend the poor and helpless. Rosewater finds, however, that his monetary wealth cannot begin to alleviate the world's misery. Like Rosewater, Vonnegut's protagonists are idealistic, ordinary people who strive in vain to understand and bring about change in a world beyond their control or comprehension.
Vonnegut tempers his pessimistic, sometimes caustic commentary with compassion for his characters, suggesting that humanity's ability to love may partially compensate for destructive tendencies.
In Mother Night , a spy novel, an American agent who posed as a Nazi propagandist during World War II undergoes a personality crisis when tried for crimes he committed to insure his covert identity. In Slaughterhouse-Five , perhaps Vonnegut's best-known work, the author confronts his personal experience as a prisoner of war who survived the Allied fire-bombing of Dresden, a city of little military or strategic value. The absurdity of this event is filtered through the numbed consciousness of Billy Pilgrim, a young soldier who escapes the insanity of war through schizophrenic travels into time and space; these journeys assume realistic stature when compared to his irrational wartime experiences.
Considered a classic of postmodern literature, Slaughterhouse-Five is written in a fragmented, non-chronological style to emphasize the confusion and absurdity of wartime life.
Vonnegut's subsequent novels have achieved popular success but have not always elicited critical praise. In he wrote his best-known play, Happy Birthday, Wanda Jane , and throughout the s and s wrote several screenplays for television. Vonnegut's most recent works include Hocus Pocus and Timequake In both of these novels Vonnegut presents his ideas in new and unusual literary forms.
Hocus Pocus purports to be the autobiographical manuscript of Eugene Debs Hartke, a teacher and the last American out of Vietnam, who was fired for being too pessimistic and later charged with engineering the escape of African-American inmates from a prison. Hartke writes observations about his life on pieces of paper and Vonnegut masquerades as the editor. In Timequake Vonnegut merges parts of a problematic and incomplete novel with commentary about his life and views.
The result is part memoir and part political novel. The mix is thick and rich: Vonnegut has stated that he is retiring, and that Timequake will mark the end of his fiction-writing career. Vonnegut's first decade of work did not attract much critical attention: Citing his futuristic settings and the paramount role of technology in his work, some critics insist that Vonnegut is a science fiction writer.
Others argue that despite these elements, Vonnegut is ultimately writing about the universal human condition and that he only employs science fiction devices to create distance and irony, just as he employs satire to the same effect. In recent years Vonnegut has come under fire from commentators who claim that he has failed to develop stylistically and that his characters are little more than mouthpieces for his opinions.
Such critics claim that Vonnegut's work after Slaughterhouse-Five has offered more or less the same style, theme, and message. Tom Shone, for instance, writes that "all the same subjects are there, novel after novel" and that "Vonnegut's highly distinctive style has eclipsed Vonnegut the author. John Irving remarks, "Vonnegut's subject has always been doomsday, and nobody writes about it better. That he is also so terribly funny in how he describes our own worst nightmare is, of course, another element that confuses his dumber critics.
Opinions essays Slapstick; or, Lonesome No More! Once upon a time, I, too, was a Vonnegut groupie. In that world, which every day seems a little better than this one, we waited, eager and conspiratorial, for the man who had written the short stories later collected in Canary in a Cat House and the novel Player Piano to bring out his next book.
There was a little wait before that marvelous and wacko novel The Sirens of Titan appeared, Woody Allen once observed that 80 percent of life is showing up. The other 20 percent—the part that stands between me and stardom—is making yourself likable, like George Burns, Jack Benny, Bill Cosby, or my pal hah!
The amiable Vonnegut persona—a wry man who is a tad curmudgeonly, but as moral as he can honestly be—is, from book to book, Vonnegut's most substantial, continuing In the review below, he praises Hocus Pocus as one of Vonnegut's best novels and discusses the merits of Vonnegut's writing.
Kurt Vonnegut is a friend of mine. He was my teacher at the University of Iowa; he is my neighbor in Sagaponack, Long Island—it is a three-minute The knock against Kurt Vonnegut, back a couple of decades ago when he was a cult author, was that he pandered too glibly to the natural cynicism of the disaffected young.
He was too quick, it was said, to detect the smell of society's insulation burning—and to sigh "So it goes"—when there was nothing more in the air than, say, a harmless whiff from a distant war or the neighborhood toxic-waste dump. No more; his news in Hocus Pocus is that our charred insulation no longer It should come as no surprise to Kurt Vonnegut's readers that one of the characters in his 13th and latest novel, Hocus Pocus , is Hiroshi Matsumoto, a survivor of Hiroshima.
But what may be modestly alarming is the almost affectionate mordancy with which Matsumoto's experience is described: In , his sister, Alice, died of cancer two days after her husband, James Carmalt Adams, was killed in a train accident. Vonnegut adopted Alice's three young sons—James, Steven, and Kurt, aged 14, 11, and 9, respectively. Grappling with family challenges, Vonnegut continued to write, publishing novels vastly dissimilar in terms of plot.
The Sirens of Titan features a Martian invasion of Earth, as experienced by a bored billionaire, Malachi Constant.
He meets Winston Rumfoord, an aristocratic space traveler, who is virtually omniscient but stuck in a time warp that allows him to appear on Earth every 59 days.
The billionaire learns that his actions and the events of all of history are determined by a race of robotic aliens from the planet Tralfamadore , who need a replacement part that can only be produced by an advanced civilization in order to repair their spaceship and return home—human history has been manipulated to produce it.
Some human structures, such as the Kremlin , are coded signals from the aliens to their ship as to how long it may expect to wait for the repair to take place. Reviewers were uncertain what to think of the book, with one comparing it to Offenbach's opera The Tales of Hoffmann.
Rumfoord, who is based on Franklin D. Roosevelt , also physically resembles the former president. Rumfoord is described, "he put a cigarette in a long, bone cigarette holder, lighted it.
He thrust out his jaw. The cigarette holder pointed straight up. Mother Night , published in , received little attention at the time of its publication. Office of Strategic Services , and rises to the regime's highest ranks as a radio propagandist. After the war, the spy agency refuses to clear his name and he is eventually imprisoned by the Israelis in the same cell block as Adolf Eichmann , and later commits suicide.
Vonnegut wrote in a foreword to a later edition, "we are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be". Also published in was Vonnegut's short story, " Harrison Bergeron ", set in a dystopic future where all are equal, even if that means disfiguring beautiful people and forcing the strong or intelligent to wear devices that negate their advantages. Fourteen-year-old Harrison is a genius and athlete forced to wear record-level "handicaps" and imprisoned for attempting to overthrow the government.
He escapes to a television studio, tears away his handicaps, and frees a ballerina from her lead weights. In his biography of Vonnegut, Stanley Schatt suggested that the short story shows "in any leveling process, what really is lost, according to Vonnegut, is beauty, grace, and wisdom".
With Cat's Cradle , Allen wrote, "Vonnegut hit full stride for the first time". Felix Hoenikker, one of the fictional fathers of the atomic bomb, seeking to cover the scientist's human side. Hoenikker, in addition to the bomb, has developed another threat to mankind, ice-9, solid water stable at room temperature, and if a particle of it is dropped in water, all of it becomes ice Much of the second half of the book is spent on the fictional Caribbean island of San Lorenzo, where John explores a religion called Bokononism , whose holy books excerpts from which are quoted , give the novel the moral core science does not supply.
After the oceans are converted to ice-9, wiping out most of humankind, John wanders the frozen surface, seeking to have himself and his story survive. Vonnegut based the title character of God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater , on an accountant he knew on Cape Cod, who specialized in clients in trouble and often had to comfort them. Eliot Rosewater, the wealthy son of a Republican senator, seeks to atone for his wartime killing of noncombatant firefighters by serving in a volunteer fire department , and by giving away money to those in trouble or need.
Stress from a battle for control of his charitable foundation pushes him over the edge, and he is placed in a mental hospital. He recovers, and ends the financial battle by declaring the children of his county to be his heirs. Rosewater more "a cry from the heart than a novel under its author's full intellectual control", that reflected family and emotional stresses Vonnegut was going through at the time.
After spending almost two years at the writer's workshop at the University of Iowa , teaching one course each term, Vonnegut was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for research in Germany.
By the time he won it, in March , he was becoming a well-known writer. He used the funds to travel in Eastern Europe, including to Dresden, where he found many prominent buildings still in ruins. At the time of the bombing, Vonnegut had not appreciated the sheer scale of destruction in Dresden; his enlightenment came only slowly as information dribbled out, and based on early figures he came to believe that , had died there. Vonnegut had been writing about his war experiences at Dresden ever since he returned from the war, but had never been able to write anything acceptable to himself or his publishers—Chapter 1 of Slaughterhouse-Five tells of his difficulties.
The story is told in a non-linear fashion, with many of the story's climaxes—Billy's death in , his kidnapping by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore nine years earlier, and the execution of Billy's friend Edgar Derby in the ashes of Dresden for stealing a teapot—disclosed in the story's first pages.
His novels have attacked our deepest fears of automation and the bomb, our deepest political guilts, our fiercest hatreds and loves. No one else writes books on these subjects; they are inaccessible to normal novelists. Vonnegut's earlier works had appealed strongly to many college students, and the antiwar message of Slaughterhouse-Five resonated with a generation marked by the Vietnam War. He later stated that the loss of confidence in government that Vietnam caused finally allowed for an honest conversation regarding events like Dresden.
After Slaughterhouse-Five was published, Vonnegut embraced the fame and financial security that attended its release. He was hailed as a hero of the burgeoning anti-war movement in the United States, was invited to speak at numerous rallies, and gave college commencement addresses around the country. Receiving mixed reviews, it closed on March 14, In , Universal Pictures adapted Slaughterhouse-Five into a film which the author said was "flawless".
Meanwhile, Vonnegut's personal life was disintegrating. His wife Jane had embraced Christianity, which was contrary to Vonnegut's atheistic beliefs, and with five of their six children having left home, Vonnegut said the two were forced to find "other sorts of seemingly important work to do.
Vonnegut called the disagreements "painful", and said the resulting split was a "terrible, unavoidable accident that we were ill-equipped to understand. When he stopped taking the drug in the mids, he began to see a psychologist weekly.
When the last living thing has died on account of us, how poetical it would be if Earth could say, in a voice floating up perhaps from the floor of the Grand Canyon, "It is done. Vonnegut's difficulties materialized in numerous ways; most distinctly though, was the painfully slow progress he was making on his next novel, the darkly comical Breakfast of Champions.
In , Vonnegut stopped writing the novel altogether. Hischak's book American Literature on Stage and Screen , Breakfast of Champions was called "funny and outlandish", but reviewers noted that it "lacks substance and seems to be an exercise in literary playfulness.
In The New York Times 's review of Slapstick , Christopher Lehmann-Haupt said Vonnegut "seems to be putting less effort into [storytelling] than ever before", and that "it still seems as if he has given up storytelling after all. In , Vonnegut married Jill Krementz , a photographer whom he met while she was working on a series about writers in the early s. With Jill, he adopted a daughter, Lily, when the baby was three days old.
Vonnegut was 84 years old. When asked about the impact Vonnegut had on his work, author Josip Novakovich stated that he has "much to learn from Vonnegut—how to compress things and yet not compromise them, how to digress into history, quote from various historical accounts, and not stifle the narrative. The ease with which he writes is sheerly masterly, Mozartian. Vonnegut has inspired numerous posthumous tributes and works.
The Library of America published a compendium of Vonnegut's compositions between and the following April, and another compendium of his earlier works in Shields 's And So It Goes. According to The Guardian , the book portrays Vonnegut as distant, cruel and nasty. Vonnegut's works have evoked ire on several occasions.
His most prominent novel, Slaughterhouse-Five , has been objected to or removed at various institutions in at least 18 instances. Pico , the United States Supreme Court ruled that a school district's ban on Slaughterhouse-Five —which the board had called "anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, and just plain filthy"—and eight other novels was unconstitutional. When a school board in Republic, Missouri decided to withdraw Vonnegut's novel from its libraries, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library offered a free copy to all the students of the district.
Tally, writing in , suggests that Vonnegut has only recently become the subject of serious study rather than fan adulation, and much is yet to be written about him. We know he's worth reading. Now tell us things we don't know. Davis notes that Vonnegut's work is kept alive by his loyal readers, who have "significant influence as they continue to purchase Vonnegut's work, passing it on to subsequent generations and keeping his entire canon in print—an impressive list of more than twenty books that [Dell Publishing] has continued to refurbish and hawk with new cover designs.
Morse notes that Vonnegut, "is now firmly, if somewhat controversially, ensconced in the American and world literary canon as well as in high school, college and graduate curricula". Vonnegut's 14 novels, while each does its own thing, together are nevertheless experiments in the same overall project. Experimenting with the form of the American novel itself, Vonnegut engages in a broadly modernist attempt to apprehend and depict the fragmented, unstable, and distressing bizarreries of postmodern American experience That he does not actually succeed in representing the shifting multiplicities of that social experience is beside the point.
What matters is the attempt, and the recognition that The asteroid Vonnegut is named in his honor. In the introduction to Slaughterhouse-Five Vonnegut recounts meeting filmmaker Harrison Starr at a party who asked him whether his forthcoming book was an anti-war novel — "I guess" replied Vonnegut.
Starr responded "Why don't you write an anti-glacier novel? This underlined Vonnegut's belief that wars were, unfortunately, inevitable, but that it was important to ensure the wars one fought were just wars. In , NPR wrote, "Kurt Vonnegut's blend of anti-war sentiment and satire made him one of the most popular writers of the s. Bush administration led him to write A Man Without a Country.
Slaughterhouse-Five is the Vonnegut novel best known for its antiwar themes, but the author expressed his beliefs in ways beyond the depiction of the destruction of Dresden. He has one character, Mary O'Hare, opine that "wars were partly encouraged by books and movies", made by " Frank Sinatra or John Wayne or some of those other glamorous, war-loving, dirty old men".
Nuclear war , or at least deployed nuclear arms , is mentioned in almost all of Vonnegut's novels. In Player Piano , the computer EPICAC is given control of the nuclear arsenal, and is charged with deciding whether to use high-explosive or nuclear arms. In Cat's Cradle , John's original purpose in setting pen to paper was to write an account of what prominent Americans had been doing as Hiroshima was bombed.
Vonnegut was an atheist and a humanist , serving as the honorary president of the American Humanist Association. In his autobiographical work Palm Sunday , Vonnegut says he is a "Christ-worshipping agnostic";  in a speech to the Unitarian Universalist Association , he called himself a "Christ-loving atheist". However, he was keen to stress that he was not a Christian. Vonnegut was an admirer of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount , particularly the Beatitudes , and incorporated it into his own doctrines.
He despised the televangelists of the late 20th century, feeling that their thinking was narrow-minded. Religion features frequently in Vonnegut's work, both in his novels and elsewhere. He laced a number of his speeches with religion-focused rhetoric,   and was prone to using such expressions as "God forbid" and "thank God".
Kevorkian , Vonnegut goes to heaven after he is euthanized by Dr. Once in heaven, he interviews 21 deceased celebrities, including Isaac Asimov , William Shakespeare , and Kilgore Trout —the last a fictional character from several of his novels. Slaughterhouse-Five sees Billy Pilgrim, lacking religion himself, nevertheless become a chaplain's assistant in the military and display a large crucifix on his bedroom wall.
Vonnegut did not particularly sympathize with liberalism or conservatism , and mused on the specious simplicity of American politics. If you are against those perversions and for the rich, you're a conservative. What could be simpler? The people don't acknowledge this. They claim membership in two imaginary parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, instead. Vonnegut disregarded more mainstream political ideologies in favor of socialism , which he thought could provide a valuable substitute for what he saw as social Darwinism and a spirit of " survival of the fittest " in American society,  believing that "socialism would be a good for the common man".
As long as there is a criminal element, I'm of it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free. Vonnegut's writing was inspired by an eclectic mix of sources. When he was younger, Vonnegut stated that he read works of pulp fiction , science fiction, fantasy, and action-adventure. He also read the Classics , like those of Aristophanes. Aristophanes, like Vonnegut, wrote humorous critiques of contemporary society.
Both shared pessimistic outlooks on humanity, and a skeptical take on religion, and, as Vonnegut put it, were both "associated with the enemy in a major war", as Twain briefly enlisted in the South's cause during the American Civil War , and Vonnegut's German name and ancestry connected him with the United States' enemy in both world wars.
Vonnegut called George Orwell his favorite writer, and admitted that he tried to emulate Orwell. Vonnegut commented that Robert Louis Stevenson 's stories were emblems of thoughtfully put together works that he tried to mimic in his own compositions. She took short-story courses at night.
She studied magazines the way gamblers study racing forms. Early on in his career, Vonnegut decided to model his style after Henry David Thoreau , who wrote as if from the perspective of a child, allowing Thoreau's works to be more widely comprehensible.
Wells , and satirist Jonathan Swift. Vonnegut credited newspaper magnate H. Mencken for inspiring him to become a journalist. Sharp describes Vonnegut's linguistic style as straightforward; his sentences concise, his language simple, his paragraphs brief, and his ordinary tone conversational. He credited his time as a journalist for his ability, pointing to his work with the Chicago City News Bureau, which required him to convey stories in telephone conversations.
Vonnegut believed that ideas, and the convincing communication of those ideas to the reader, were vital to literary art. He did not always sugarcoat his points: The large artificial families that the U.
Kunze suggest that Vonnegut was not a " black humorist ", but a "frustrated idealist" who used "comic parables" to teach the reader absurd, bitter or hopeless truths, with his grim witticisms serving to make the reader laugh rather than cry. Vonnegut's works have, at various times, been labeled science fiction, satire and postmodern. In several of his books, Vonnegut imagines alien societies and civilizations, as is common in works of science fiction.
Vonnegut does this to emphasize or exaggerate absurdities and idiosyncrasies in our own world. However, literary theorist Robert Scholes noted in Fabulation and Metafiction that Vonnegut "reject[s] the traditional satirist's faith in the efficacy of satire as a reforming instrument.
Postmodernism often entails a response to the theory that the truths of the world will be discovered through science. They often use unreliable , first-person narration , and narrative fragmentation. 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: 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. A Critical Companion , Thomas F. 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. 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: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Redirected from Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
For other uses with the name Vonnegut, see Vonnegut disambiguation. Satire Gallows humor Science fiction. Jane Marie Cox m. Vonnegut's sincerity, his willingness to scoff at received wisdom, is such that reading his work for the first time gives one the sense that everything else is rank hypocrisy. His opinion of human nature was low, and that low opinion applied to his heroes and his villains alike — he was endlessly disappointed in humanity and in himself, and he expressed that disappointment in a mixture of tar-black humor and deep despair.
Free Kurt Vonnegut papers, essays, and research papers.
Technology has changed the way people live in many ways. It has impacted the world in both negative and positive ways as it will continue to do so throughout history. The author Kurt Vonnegut uses the influence of technology in many of his short stories. In the short story “Welcome to .
Sep 28, · Kurt Vonnegut is the conscience of Middle America. The fates picked out an ordinary GI kid prisoner-of-war, one of us, one man out of the whole . Free Essay: Kurt Vonnegut Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. is a contemporary American author whose works have been described by Richard Giannone as "comic masks.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (/ Vonnegut's final book, a collection of essays entitled A Man Without a Country (), became a bestseller. Death and legacy. Vonnegut's sincerity, his willingness to scoff at received wisdom, is such that reading his work for the first time gives one the sense that everything else is rank hypocrisy. His opinion of. The bibliography of Kurt Vonnegut (–) includes essays, books and fiction, as well as film and television adaptations of works written by the Indianapolis-born author. Vonnegut began his literary career with science fiction short stories and novels.