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Kurt Vonnegut Research Paper Essay, Research Paper

Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut has been called a genius, a fraud, a psychotic, and even a guru throughout his achievement filled life by many different people from all different walks of life. His works have been discussed, read, praised, and criticized throughout the natural world. While some people regard his books as masterpieces, and cult classics, others categorize them as trash. Dozens of books he has written are considered ahead of their time. Kurt Vonnegut is a revolutionary thinker and author who expresses avant-garde ideas and views about society and life, which have made a lasting impression on the way people see the many different aspects of the world today.

Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on Nov. 11th, 1922. His father, Kurt Sr. and his mother, Edith Lieber Vonnegut, raised him and his siblings, Bernard & Alice, in a two story house in the suburbs of Indiana (Klinkowitz XI). Vonnegut attended Shortridge High School where he was an active member on the school paper (Litz 134). He later went on to Cornell University, and then graduated from the University of Chicago with a Masters Degree in Anthropology (Litz 132). Throughout his school career, Vonnegut held many positions, from editor to columnist with his school and local papers.

In Vonnegut s life there were many influential people including friends, teachers, and most of all his father. When his father died, he was heartbroken, but he later said that this experience gave him more passion for his writing (Vonnegut 53). When Vonnegut s brother in-law and sister died, both within 48 hours, Vonnegut was devastated (Vonnegut 51). This was a major loss for him and almost too much to bear. But, with the love and support he received from close friends and remaining family, he was able to endure the trauma. This also gave him more to write about because his works revolved around personal life experiences (Vonnegut 48). By incorporating personal perspectives into his works, Vonnegut felt connected to each of his books (Klinkowitz 15).

One of the events that most influenced his later work occurred when Vonnegut was interned as a prisoner of war in Dresden, Germany in World War II (Vonnegut 61). After his capture by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 (Petro III 1), he was imprisoned in a slaughterhouse, deep underground, with five other American Prisoners of War. In that place he withstood the allied bombing of Dresden in 1945. This was what influenced him to write his most famous novel, Slaughterhouse Five, which confronts and accepts humanity s tendency to inflict catastrophe on itself (Legat 254).

The other main influence on Vonnegut was his family situation. The original parents of his three children were his sister and brother in-law. Vonnegut adopted the children after his sister died of cancer at age 41, just 48 hours after her husband was killed in a train wreck (Litz 128). When his adopted son Mark suffered a schizophrenic breakdown right in front of him, Vonnegut was later influenced to write his book, The Eden Express (Merril 43). Because of Vonnegut s personal relationships with each of his books, he was able to express the feeling of his heart and soul through his writing (Vonnegut 57).

Kurt Vonnegut s life is filled with great achievements and lasting contributions to American Society. He was a professor at Harvard and taught creative writing to some of the brightest minds in the world (Schatt 64). He was honored as the Vice-President of the P.E.N. American Center for his great achievements in literature (Bradbury 112). In 1973, Vonnegut was elected to Membership of the National Institute of Arts and Letters (Bradbury 113). Because of the fact that he spent most of his life in New York City, he was appointed Distinguished Professor of English prose by the City University of New York (Legat 253). In October of 2000, he was named State Author of New York City (Redfern A10). Vonnegut even received an Emmy award for an outstanding children s program in 1985 (Petro III 2). Kurt Vonnegut has influenced many musical performers as well. Such musicians as The Grateful Dead, Faith No More, Elvis Costello, Dave Mathews Band, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Joe Satriani, and Ringo Starr have all used aspects of Kurt Vonnegut s works in their Lyrics (Petro III 4). Vonnegut s influence can also be seen in television and Movies. Examples of shows and movies that discuss Vonnegut are Can t Hardly Wait , Disturbing Behavior , Footloose , Back to School , Daria , The Wonder Years , and Varsity Blues .

Although Vonnegut is very happy that his work is being acknowledged, he is against television and film in general. He expressed this when he said:

The worst thing about film, from my point of view, is that it cripples illusions, which I have encouraged people to create in their heads. Film doesn’t create illusion. It makes them impossible. It is a bullying form of reality, like the model rooms in the furniture department of Bloomingdale’s. There is nothing for the viewer to do but gawk. For example: there can be only one Clockwork Orange by Stanley Kubrick. There are tens of thousands of Clockwork Oranges by Anthony Burgess, since every reader has to cast, costume, direct, and design the show in his head. (Vonnegut 114)

Vonnegut s work will always be remembered. He has written and received publication of dozens of books, short stories, and essays, which are now considered classics, masterpieces, and cult classics. Kurt Vonnegut is an important, contributing member of American society because his ideas have changed the standards and views of modern literature. In his books, he often portrays a universe that is essentially without purpose (Merril 48). The basic tone in his literature is a gloomy view of humanity, but he also shows how to improve life. His topics of writing include advice to be kind, to have pity, to seek companionship of others, and to enjoy the simple human pleasure of life (Vonnegut 39). Vonnegut believes that everyone should practice these important ideas. In one of his non-fiction books, Palm Sunday, he outlines the steps to become a better human being. He took fantasies, science fiction, recent social and natural events, and measured them against his own mundane American life (Klinkowitz 18).

He began to receive recognition for his writing in the late sixties when his writing style bordered on the extreme (Litz 129). Vonnegut is not only a talented author, but he is also known for his sculptures and art pieces that are displayed in many large museums throughout the world. His influence is present throughout society, and has inspired people to enjoy life, and to get more out of it. He also introduced a broad new cutting-edge style of writing that is frequently used by modern authors.

Kurt Vonnegut was one of those geniuses who only comes around once in a blue moon and just manages to change everything around them. As a non-conformist who fought the status quo, he thought of his own ideas, no matter how radical and extreme. He put them down in his literature for everyone to read if they choose. Because of this, Kurt Vonnegut will be remembered and respected long after he is dead.

Works Cited

Bradbury, Malcolm and Christopher Bigsby, ed. Contemporary Writers: Kurt Vonnegut. London: Methuen and Co., 1982

Klinkowitz, Jerome and Donald L. Lawler. Vonnegut in America. New York: Jerome Parks Sons, 1977.

Legat, Michael. The Illustrated Dictionary of Western Literature. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1987.

Litz, Walton, ed. American Writers. 15 vols. New York: Charles Scribner s Sons, 1981.

Merril, Robert. Critical essays on Kurt Vonnegut. New York: Jacob Hanson s Sons, 1990.

Redfern, James. Kurt Vonnegut named N.Y. State Author. North County Times 21 Oct. 2000: A10.

Schatt, Stanley. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. New York: G.K. Hall & Co., 1976.

Vonnegut, Kurt. Fates Worse Than Death. New York: G.P. Putnam s Sons, 1991.

Vonnegut Online. Ed. Joe Petro III. 21 Oct. 2000 .

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