Vonnegut Kurt Vonnegut -- an Term Paper

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Thus science and discussions of scientific phenomena with his brother also formed the backdrop to his early life, another reason why technology featured so prominently in his literary works.

Vonnegut is credited with helping to elevate the genre of science fiction, once considered a staple of pulp magazine racks, to that of high art. Cat's Cradle tells the tale of scientists trying to create 'ice-nine,' a crystal that could turn all water solid and thus destroy all life on the earth. In 1963, Cat's Cradle slowly developed a readership as Cold War Americans were increasingly receptive to a book that showed the dangerous potential of science and technology to develop faster than ethics and morality ("Novelist Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84," CNN.com, 2007) the novel, takes its title from an Eskimo game in which children try to snare the sun with string (Smith, 2007). Although its first printing sold only 500 copies, it has become a staple of English classes all over America today (Smith, 2007).

His literary style is unmistakable and transgressive on the page: "Mr. Vonnegut eschewed traditional structure and punctuation. His books were a mixture of fiction and autobiography, prone to one-sentence paragraphs, exclamation points and italics" (Smith, 2007). Although read in high school classes and colleges today, during the early years of his literary production, some readers and even professional reviewers found his style confusing, even "incoherent. His harshest critics called him no more than a comic book philosopher, a purveyor of empty aphorisms" (Smith, 2007). A more serious charge is that his books are misogynistic, which some people trace to the fact that his mother suffered from mental illness, the source of many painful memories. She later committed suicide. In typical acerbic fashion, Vonnegut observed: "My father, like Hemingway, was a gun nut and was very unhappy late in life. But he was proud of not committing suicide. And I'll do the same, so as not to set a bad example for my children" ("Novelist Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84," CNN.com, 2007)

Vonnegut not only ignored his critics, he also attempted to defy anyone who would narrowly pigeonhole any aspect of his work as autobiographical. Although he returned again and again to his POW experience, he wrote in Fates Worse than Death, his 1991 autobiography: "The firebombing of Dresden explains absolutely nothing about why I write what I write and am what I am" ("Novelist Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84," CNN.com, 2007).

A lifelong smoker, Vonnegut marveled that he lived so long, in defiance of all health warnings. He called smoking the only honorable form of suicide (Inskeep, Montagne, & Ulaby, 2007). He died at age 84 of brain injuries that were the result of a fall in his home. He said that his life, rather than being like a "period," or a suicide like Hemingway's, would end with a semicolon, which seems only fitting given his innovative use of punctuation, and his coinage of the phrase "and so it goes," a common refrain in Slaughterhouse Five about the absurdity of life ("Novelist Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84," CNN.com, 2007; Smith, 2007). To the end, Vonnegut was a critic of society. He died a passionate opponent of the War in Iraq and a passionate proponent of human rights and free speech all over the world. He was defiant of conventional norms and punctuation, and although careless about his own life and health he was never careless about using literature to raise awareness of what he considered to be the truth.

Works Cited

Inskeep, Steve,

Renee Montagne & Neda Ulaby. "Novelist Vonnegut Remembered for His Black Humor." NPR.com. 12 Apr 2007. 9 May 2007. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9533587

Smith, Dinita. "Kurt Vonnegut, Writer of Classics of the American Counterculture, Dies at 84." The New York Times. 2007. 11 Apr 2007. 9 May 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/11/books/11cnd-vonnegut.html?ei=5070&en=db6388ba6f8a0e08&ex=1178856000&pagewanted=all

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84." CNN.com. Published by the Associated Press.

12 Apr 2007. 9 May 2007. http://www.cnn.com/2007/SHOWBIZ/books/04/12/obit.vonnegut.ap

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Inskeep, Steve,

Renee Montagne & Neda Ulaby. "Novelist Vonnegut Remembered for His Black Humor." NPR.com. 12 Apr 2007. 9 May 2007. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9533587

Smith, Dinita. "Kurt Vonnegut, Writer of Classics of the American Counterculture, Dies at 84." The New York Times. 2007. 11 Apr 2007. 9 May 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/11/books/11cnd-vonnegut.html?ei=5070&en=db6388ba6f8a0e08&ex=1178856000&pagewanted=all

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84." CNN.com. Published by the Associated Press.

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