Kurt Vonnegut was one of the most important black humor authors in American history. There was a time that every college student passes by the classrooms with a Kurt Vonnegut book, and I would like to say that it was a Vonnegut’s age that, however, already passed. How many young people know that Kurt Vonnegut was a great author just like Mark Twain? Do they ever meet his works before they appear on their schools book lists? It is a pleasure for me to know this author, and I want to share what I got from him with you.
The book that introduced me to Vonnegut is Welcome to the Monkey House, a collection of Vonnegut’s short stories. I believe that many of us teenagers will be reading this in high school, and I suggest reading it carefully with some knowledge about the author. It will not only help you with your school essay but also inspire you deeper meanings of the stories.
As a German-American, Vonnegut’s life was not easy during the time of World War I and II. He loved peace but later decided to fight for the U.S. in World War II. Almost died on the front, his experience in war led to one of his best works, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969). However, he was still been treated unequally even when he fought for equality. “Yes, and even today there is a sort of San Andreas fault line running between German-Americans and Anglos, but fainter all the time.” He stated in his last work, A Man without a Country.
Why did Vonnegut consider himself as a man without a country? His works are well known by his humor, but Vonnegut decided to change his style in his last book, stating, “You get just too tired, and the news is too awful, and humor doesn’t work anymore. It may be that I am no longer able to joke– that it is no longer a satisfactory defense mechanism.” (A Man Without a Country, 2005)
For me, every Vonnegut story I read connected to Vonnegut’s life. For example, Vonnegut’s short story, “Harrison Bergeron,” explains Vonnegut’s understanding of equality, and you can see the connection. Vonnegut wanted equality and fought for it, but at last he did not achieve what he hoped for. When the main character Harrison frees himself from all the trashes that lock him, could we say that Vonnegut had the hope to free himself from the bias of people around him? Did he ever imagine crushing the labels that people put on him before knowing him as a human being?
As a great author, Vonnegut influenced a generation. However he was not a happy man- almost struggled for his whole life, Vonnegut did not meet his end happily. He fought for what he believed with humor, and he died.
So it goes.
-Wenqing Z., 10th grade