Kurt Vonnegut Essay

Submitted By Lemonry
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Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut has identified himself as a freethinker, a Unitarian Universalist, and a humanist. Born in Indianapolis, Indiana to a third-generation German-American family, Kurt Vonnegut described his family as a family of freethinkers. Vonnegut’s early exposure to skepticism and religion has reflected upon many of his well-known works such as The Sirens of Titan and Cat’s Cradle. Vonnegut’s novels have always shown the breakdown of religion and the importance of free will, while utilizing the limitless creativity involved in science fiction. Vonnegut is known for his dystopian type novels, usually with a setting of a catastrophic atmosphere or a setting involved with war. Vonnegut’s obvious indifference to traditional religious beliefs are often the subject of his novels as he blends his understanding these beliefs with his own sci-fi and satirical style of writing. The Sirens of Titan has been considered one of Vonnegut’s first successful novels. The novel is truly Vonnegut’s first experimentation with religion and science fiction. The Sirens of Titan revolves around an arrogant and pretentious man named Malachi Constant, the richest man of the 22nd century, and his journey through the galaxy discovering the importance of free will, religion, and ultimately uncovering the age old philosophical question of the purpose of human life. The novel begins as Malachi Constant is invited to the infamous Rumfoord mansion, where he meets a recently materialized, Winston Niles Rumfoord, who through the chrono-synclastic infundibulum. Rumfoord predicts Malachi’s future involving Rumfoord’s wife, Beatrice, and future son of Beatrice and Malachi. Malachi feels as if his impressive existence was nothing compared to that of Rumfoord’s, identifying him as “the first person who had ever made constant think that there might actually be a person superior to himself” (14). Although Rumfoord appears to be the alpha-male he brings up a relevant point, he tells Malachi to “think of this: you can reproduce and I cannot” (17), with this simply point, Rumfoord allows Malachi to ponder on what is really important with the life he has been given. Reproduction. Reproduction is what many scientist say as the ultimate goal for species, to pass down their genes to the next generation. Malachi finds this important statement by Rumfoord as being irrelevant, as he has known his own purpose in life since his birth. Malachi Constant, “his name meant faithful messenger” (11) which meant he was “pined for just one thing - a single message that was sufficiently dignified and important to merit his carrying it humbly between two points” (12). Malachi believes he has a specific relationship with God, even attributing his vast fortune and extraordinary luck to God, with a simple shrug he says “Who knows? I guess somebody up there likes me” (15). Vonnegut deals with the question of human purpose quite early on in the novel. He sets up the main character, Malachi Constant, as being a successful man who has never thought about his life in any other way, and puts a mysterious impeding character like Rumfoord to change Malachi’s outlook. The story shifts settings from Earth to Mars. In the Martian world, every Martian was once a Earthling, and every Earthling willingly allowed themselves to be taken. Every “Martian” was given amnesia and controlled by little radios inside each Martians’ brain. Malachi has now taken the identity of Unk, after being “kidnapped” and brainwashed by Martians. The purpose of the Martians is to complete a full invasion of Earth. Unk, a soldier of the Martian Army led coincidentally by Rumfoord, struggles to uncover the truth behind his existence. Unk eventually overcomes control of the radio and finds a letter written by his past self revealing the secret behind the Martians. Vonnegut uses this shift of story as a plot device to allow Malachi/Unk to realize the importance of a purpose. Eventually, Unk deserts the…