Research paper on Kurt Vonnegut's use of satirical atrocities in his novels

Essay by BigRed3High School, 10th gradeA+, September 2002

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The Humorous Atrocities

He [Vonnegut] had no taste for war; and even less for being a survivor of it. (Blieler 553)

When a person faces the hardships of life, he must develop a way of dealing with the dark situation set before him. Kurt Vonnegut, one of America's outstanding modern authors, certainly dealt with the atrocities of life himself. His experiences during the Great Depression, his childhood, and World War II helped mold his perspective on humanity. Vonnegut's means of coping with these horrific difficulties was to see the humor in the midst of tragedy. Born in 1922, into a family who emigrated from Germany in 1848, Kurt Vonnegut was one of three children of Kurt and Edith Vonnegut who settled in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Vonnegut family prospered in a flourishing German-American society. In his early teens, however, Vonnegut dealt with the first major setback of his life.

During the Great Depression, his affluent lifestyle became a meager one. His family was forced to move to a smaller, less flamboyant house built by his father, a successful architect (Litz 754). The new economic circumstances formed by this Depression traumatized his parents. His father later gave up on life, and after Kurt Jr.'s enlistment, his mother committed suicide in 1944 by taking an overdose of sleeping pills. In a later interview Vonnegut confessed: "I learned a bone-deep sadness from them [his parents]" (Allen 2-3).

In addition to the influences of his adolescence, Vonnegut faced the brutality of war. In 1944, Vonnegut was serving infantry duty in Europe, when he was caught behind German lines at the Battle of the Bulge and sent to Dresden, Germany, as a prisoner. In February, 1945, the Allies unleashed a firestorm that essentially annihilated the historic city of Dresden, killing nearly 135,000...