The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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An Ode to the Legendary Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut, a great American novelist,
died last week due to irreversible brain
injuries. The author used his experiences to
portray major issues in the science and political
sectors of the world. Arguably his greatest
novel, “Slaughterhouse-Five,” influenced by
his experience in World War II, deals with various
different subjects such as extraterrestrials,
time travel, war, economics, marriage, and
maturing into adulthood. The way in which
Vonnegut’s characters interact with each other
in this fantastic novel implies that certain
social conventions need to be changed. For
example, on Earth, the character Billy marries
Valencia, an overweight woman who is completely
in love with him, but he marries her
simply to get rich with the help of her wealthy
father.

In another chapter, Billy is put in a zoo
on another planet when he is captured by aliens
and mates with an actress. Do these chapters
suggest that there is no love to be found in life?
Is marriage only a vehicle for social climbers?
Vonnegut’s writing questions the way in
which society functions and asks what is truly
acceptable behavior.

In “Cat’s Cradle,”
Vonnegut uses his infamous irony and humor
to make statements about the shape that the
world is in. A lethal weapon called ice-nine is
developed and threatens humanity’s existence.
If mishandled, one molecule of this substance
could destroy all life on earth. Through this
novel, Vonnegut comments on the sense of
panic and chaos experienced by the world
around him. This book was published during
the Cold War, right around the time of the
Cuban Missile Crisis.

The story proves to be a
fascinating analogy and shows how careless
humans in power can be.
What was most amazing about Vonnegut
was his ability to create realistic characters, so
much so that readers are scared to think there
may actually be people in the world like them.

Vonnegut was an amazing author who used
intertextuality to enhance his work. His references
to other texts include religious texts like
the book of Jonah in the Bible to classical literary
works like “Moby Dick.”

In an April 13, 2007 New York Post article,
Tom Wolfe, author of “The Bonfire of the
Vanities,” said, “He was the closest thing
we’ve had to Voltaire. It’s a sad day for the literary
world.”

While Vonnegut wrote both short stories
and novels, he had once commented that much
like Charles Dickens, and other famous writers,
he wrote the short stories simply for
money, while his novels were his most prideful
work.

His most recent novel is “Timequake”
(1997) and his most recent book of essays is
“A Man without a Country” (2005).
Contemporary writers like Khaled Hosseini,
author of “The Kite Runner,” and Michael
Crichton carry on in Vonnegut’s footsteps, shining
light on issues in other countries that affect
people of all origins. Vonnegut’s ingenious mind will be missed but not forgotten.

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