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|Title:||The Attitudes of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. , Towards the Family|
|Authors:||Jessup, Lee Christine|
|Keywords:||English Language and Literature;family|
|Abstract:||<p>Vonnegut's solutions to the lonely American experience--Bokononism, loving whoever is around to be loved, seeking his philosophical outlook of a Tralfamadorian--may seem outlandish, and may well justify the critics' labelling of his work as "sentimental". This may be more strongly the case because his readers tend to emphasize his novels and, even then, to study each as an almost isolated segment of his writings. But Vonnegut's later work seems to encourage a re-focusing of interest in his entire development. In Slapstick, in 1976, Vonnegut come to terms with ideals of the family system--ideals that once dominated his short stories and may have motivated him to search for replacement systems in the first place. Slapstick, with its memories of the writer's own extended family, does seem to suggest that Vonnegut acutely missed its support. And it fictively develops an America in which all citizens are united into these families once more. But the novel also indicates a disdain for Western Society, when it is placed beside the comical but less deteriorating one of the Communist Chinese. Wilbur Swain, master mind of the system of artificially extended families, finally even deserts America for escape into the Afterlife. Vonnegut's next novel, Jailbird, advances from this latter novel's flounderings in purpose to propose a more economically sound basis for social re-unification. The section of Palm Sunday currently available suggests that Vonnegut carries his development still further--is able, finally, to reflect back upon a crisis period in his life that threw him from the smooth success of his novels into the failure of Happy Birthday, Wanda June, chaos in Breakfast of Champions, and re-emphasis--as we have noted--upon family values in Slapstick.</p> <p>We thus follow through the family situations in his dull and neglected short stories, his later experiments to discover a suitable way for men to relate, his retreat to support of the extended family in Slapstick, and shift to sturdier perspectives in Jailbird. We may combine these movements with Vonnegut's eventual ability to reflect clearly, in Palm Sunday, upon the crisis of his children's exodus, and upon the way this affected his vision of himself as parent and spouse--indeed, upon the way it affects the self-visions of too many of his contemporaries. And, from these many developments in Vonnegut's work, we are induced to see not only his sentimentalism, but his seriousness--his determination to surface with an understanding, and perhaps with some form of solution to the problems of alienation and loneliness.</p>|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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