Tag Archives: Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Summary

  1. Slaughterhouse-Five is loosely based on Vonnegut’s own experience in WWII. It treats one of the most horrific massacres in European history, the World War II firebombing of Dresden in February 1945, with mock-serious humor and clear antiwar sentiment
 
Key Takeaways
  
  • The narrator and main character, Billy Pilgrim, a POW witnesses and survives the Allied forces’ firebombing of Dresden. His narrative jumps in time and this is done as a mechanism for dealing with the horrors he had been put through
  • Billy is kidnapped by two-foot-high aliens who resemble upside-down toilet plungers, who he calls Tralfamadorians. They take him in their flying saucer to the planet Tralfamadore, where they mate him with a movie actress named Montana Wildhack. She, like Billy, has been brought from Earth to live under a transparent geodesic dome in a zoo where Tralfamadorians can observe extraterrestrial curiosities 
  • The Tralfamadorians explain to Billy their perception of time, how its entire sweep exists for them simultaneously in the fourth dimension. When someone dies, that person is simply dead at a particular time.
  • Tralfamadorians prefer to look at life’s nicer moments. When he returns to Earth, Billy initially says nothing of his experiences but Billy knows that his message will eventually be accepted.
  • Due to the alien’s ability to see all time, they possess an attitude of acceptance about their fates, figuring that they are powerless to change them. Only on Earth, according to the Tralfamadorians, is there talk of free will, since humans, they claim, mistakenly think of time as a linear progression.
  • The phrase “So it goes” occurs throughout the book and it reflects a comfort with the idea that although a person may be dead in a particular moment, he or she is alive in all the other moments of his or her life. However, it is used after every single death and helps the reader keep count of all the deaths that happen throughout the book
 
What I got out of it
  1. Extremely different and interesting read due to the way the narration jumps around in time. Enjoyable read and would definitely recommend

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Cat's Cradle

Summary

  1. Kurt Vonnegut wrote this book when science was first becoming revered but few truly asked whether the truth and knowledge being discovered by modern science were necessarily beneficial. Human stupidity is alive and well and with additional technology makes it potentially even more devastating.

Key Takeaways

  1. In order to write a book about the dropping of the atomic bomb, Jonah reached out to Newton Hoenikker, youngest son of the man who invented the atomic bomb (Felix Hoenikker)
  2. New knowledge is the most valuable commodity on earth. The more truth we have to work with, the richer we become
  3. Felix always approached old puzzles as if they were brand new
  4. American’s are always searching for love in forms it never takes, where it can never be. It must have something to do with the vanished frontier
  5. Frank Hoenikker is the major general in San Lorenzo and Jonah heads there to speak with him – bumps into the other two Hoenikker siblings on the flight there
  6. Felix invented ice-nine. A substance so powerful that even if the smallest amount gets in contact with any water, it freezes everything. He gave to his children when he died who then gave to some random people (Papa in San Lorenzo, Newt’s Ukrainian “fiancée”…)
  7. Frank asks Jonah to be president of San Lorenzo and he agrees
  8. Papa trying to kill Bokonon but it is not serious – religion is outlawed but everybody follows it
  9. During a national holiday in San Lorenzo, a fly over went badly and a plane crashed into the palace and some of it went into the sea. Some of the ice-nine hit the sea and turned all water on earth into ice-nine
  10. The vast majority of the people on the island, and the world died, but the Crosby’s, Frank and Newt survived

What I got out of it

  1. Very satirical book which pokes fun at modern society and our reverence for science in all its wisdom. He also makes fun of how stupid, but not necessarily evil, people can be and with today’s technological power, that combination can be enough to destroy the world.