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Choice And Direction In The Writings Of Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

2956 words - 12 pages

Choice and Direction in the Writings of Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

     Satire in American literature has evolved in response to the development of the American mind, its increasing use of free will, and the context that surrounds this notion.  Satire is the biting wit that authors (labeled satirists) bring to their literature to expose and mock the follies of society.  Satirists can be divided, however, into two groups with very different purposes.   One type  mocks simply for the enjoyment of mocking.  These satirists are found almost everywhere in the world, on every street corner, household, and television sitcom.  It is the second type of satirist who is a strong force in the world of literature.  The satirical author will mock to heighten the reader's awareness of the problems that threaten to destroy the world that they believe has so much potential. They do this with the hope that their satire will encourage others to better society.  "I have often hoped that the arts could be wonderfully useful in times of trouble" (32) says the writer who is perhaps the king of this second type of American satire, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.  Vonnegut uses his literature to help guide a disillusioned America, in which free will has been  fundamental since the writing of the Constitution.  As a humanist, Vonnegut uses the idea of free will as a constant motif in his writing. He believes that every soul has the freedom to do anything, but that the problem with society is that people lack  direction.  Free will, used as a  theme in Timequake, is an enormous responsibility. Acknowledging the free will that one has also involves accepting the responsibility that is necessary to use this privilege in a way that will benefit humanity.  In several essays taken from Wampeters, Foma, & Granfalloons (Opinions),  Vonnegut identifies societal problems that are clogging humanity's sense of direction.  The complexities of institutions such as business and government are confusing the sense of direction needed in order to prosper, causing a spiritual decline that results in the  warping of the public's morals. Vonnegut also feels that the American attitude of dwelling on the worst events of life is contributing this loss of spirit.  Vonnegut offers solutions to this problem in Slaughterhouse Five, as he introduces  new ways of perceiving our lives. With the increasing amount of free will that is being granted to people around the world, many have no sense of how to use it. Vonnegut is particularly upset with the way that Americans are living and the way in which society is moving. Through his literature, he offers a path for the use of free will with the notion that all people are given the opportunity to better themselves.  Through the bettering of the individual comes the bettering of society.


       Vonnegut's last addition to the literary world is his wantonly satirical novel Timequake. Timequake is  devoted to the concept of free will and its dominance in...

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