Monday, February 10, 2014

Chapters 1-7: Passage Discussion

1.     "He was then living in the fifth of a series of foster homes, essentially an orphan, since he was the product of an incestuous relationship between a father and a daughter who had run away from town, forever and together, soon after he was born" (Pg. 14, L.15-19) ... "All through his childhood, Wait was severely punished by foster parents for nothing and everything. It was expected by them that, because of his inbred parentage, he would become a moral monster." (Pg. 15, L.3-6)

     These excerpts from the story's third chapter serve not as a justification, but rather as a sort of explanation for the callous behavior of James Wait. Wait's character, having been abandoned in infancy and several times thereafter, is perhaps conditioned to evade personal attachment. It is arguably for this reason that he has wed seventeen women, whom he has so easily cast aside in favor of more wealth from more women. The expectation that Wait was to become a moral monster is of special significance. I imagine that this expectation has worn on him. If he believes himself to be devoid of moral principle, he will surely act accordingly. Later, in Chapter 5, the narrator addresses a handful of starving peoples whose central problem resembles Wait's, "It was all in people's heads." (Pg. 24, L.11)

2.     "The two with stars by their names would be dead before the sun went down. This convention of starring certain names will continue throughout my story, incidentally, alerting some readers to the fact that some characters will shortly face the ultimate Darwinian test of strength and wiliness. I was there, too, but perfectly invisible." (Pgs. 19-20, L.27-3)

     The story's narrator reveals provocative information in small doses, for instance, the death or unknown presence of a central character. This is brilliant choice on Vonnegut's part and one that has been employed in a handful of his other stories. These gripping plot elements are granted without context, effectively maintaining a sense of suspense within the reader.

3.     "To the credit of humanity as it used to be: More and more people were saying that their brains were irresponsible, unreliable, hideously dangerous, wholly unrealistic--were simply no damn good." (Pg. 25, L.14-17)

     We know that the necessity of the brain will make up a key theme in this story. What are your thoughts on the sentiment above and its reiterations that we've read thus far?

- Utah


  1. I definitely agree with your perception of Wait, and how his unfortunate past informs his present actions. Although "nature" plays a large role in our daily lives, "nurture" has an incredible impact on us both consciously and subconsciously. Growing up, Wait was never exposed to a healthy, normal relationship, and so he draws on his warped adolescent experience in his interactions with others; he doesn't know any other way.
    In regards to the third quote, I am very intrigued to see where Vonnegut goes with this notion of the human brain. His take is at first humorous; however, it gains more validity as he describes Mary Hepburn and the damage her mind inflicts on her. Of course as a very materialistic person (in the philosophical sense), I don't separate the mind and body, but it's an intriguing concept and one that I'm excited to continue to explore.

  2. I also agree,. I'm also very interested to see how all of this lays out. Right now it's an open book, no pun intended, and any of this could end in ways we may not even imagine. It'll be awesome to see it alll come together.

  3. This book, like Vonnegut's other works, is addictive from the first line. The central theme of the necessity of the brain is intriguing because it is the brain that distinguishes humans from all other species. The human brain is one of evolution's most notable successes, yet ironically, it is responsible for the majority of the pain and torment humans endure. The brain's destructive potency is reflected in Mary Hepburn, whom I found to be a very relatable character. Hepburn will not go downstairs in her combat fatigues because she believes people will falsely judge her. This fear of judgement and not being accepted is a feeling everyone feels, despite our efforts to convince ourselves that we don't care what others think. Hepburn's internal conflicts reveal that she feels her mind is an uncontrollable force (like what Kayla said about the separation of mind and body), that makes her feel shame over petty issues. Overall, I am enjoying this book immensely and I predict that it will be a story that will remain in the forefront of mt mind for a long while.