The literary genius of Kurt Vonnegut is evidenced by his
ability to weave a story from the most mundane of characters and
circumstances into an intricate web of possibilities for his
stories by using literary tools such as cause and effect,
congruence and destiny. Here we will examine Vonnegut's use of
one of these literary tools, destiny as a fictive device, which
serves to propel the three following books: Cat's Cradle, Mother
Night, and Jailbird. Kurt Vonnegut is a master of fictive devices
because he uses them to construct an intricate web of
possibilities for his stories to proceed on.
Destiny, as the dictionary tells us, is "a predetermined
course of events often held to be a resistless power or agency,"
and in these three novels, Kurt Vonnegut implies that destiny is
just the way things are bound to be. Some of the many forms of
destiny used by Vonnegut to guide his characters and to shove his
stories into the right direction include: destiny for people who
don't believe in destiny; such as religious persons,
anti-destiny; the idea of what might have been, and
predestination; the idea that what happens to you is already
In Jailbird, Vonnegut uses a particularly obscure main
character named Walter F. Starbuck. Walter F. Starbuck was
a normal, law-abiding citizen in his fifties, with a wife and
a son who didn't like him, but, by using destiny as a fictive
device, Kurt Vonnegut creates an amazing story filled with
adventure, love, and betrayal.
In the novel Mother Night Vonnegut lays out the life of his
main character, Howard W Campbell, Jr., from when he was eleven.
Howard would not think of becoming a top-secret spy agent for the
U.S.A. when he was such an unimportant playwright in Germany, who
was not even interested in war, " If war comes, I won't do
anything to help it along."(p.40 Mother Night), but Howard has
a destiny; arranged by Vonnegut, to be a spy; thus, helping Jews
to escape the grasp of Hitler during World War Two, aiding The
United States of America to end the war, and himself having
a life that is anything but inane. Cat's Cradle is " an
unforgettable ride!"(The New York Times). Kurt Vonnegut not only
uses destiny as a fictive device to propel the lives of his
characters, but also invents his own religion, known as Bokonon,
which is based on destiny.
The first form of destiny used by Vonnegut is destiny for
people who don't believe in destiny. In Jailbird, for example,
this form is noted at the opening of the novel: "Life goes on,
yes-and a fool and his self-respect are soon parted, perhaps
never to be reunited even on Judgement Day." Traditional
institutions of religion invoke destiny, even though they all
disown the idea of destiny. Religions invoke destiny as...