AP Literature and Composition
1 April 2014
Influence of Early Life and War on Kurt Vonnegut Jr. to Encourage a Generation Against War
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. is one of the most well known World War II authors. His humble beginnings and early life misfortunes shaped not only his writings, but also his view of the world. His imprisonment in Dresden in World War II, however, formed his opinions about war at an early age and later inspired many of his works and style of writing. After the returning from World War II, Vonnegut voiced his sentiments through his writing that war was wasteful and uncivilized. Vonnegut developed a unique blend of sadness, satire, and simplicity, along with his ability to understand the audience, which made his novels comprehensible and inspirational to any reader. Although one of his most famous novels, Slaughterhouse Five, is based off of his experiences in World War II, during the time of its publishing, antiwar groups applied the novel’s themes to the Vietnam War. Early life tragedies and imprisonment established Kurt Vonnegut’s antiwar opinions in his semiautobiographical novel, Slaughterhouse Five, which would influence and encourage the younger Vietnam generation to protest an unnecessary war.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was plagued by calamity throughout his life. Although he was born into a wealthy family in Indianapolis, the Great Depression hit his father, a well-known architect, and his mother, daughter of a well-off family, hard. Vonnegut was pulled out of private school, his father lost his business and quickly spiraled into depression, and his mother became an alcoholic. These difficulties in his early life introduced Vonnegut to man’s isolation, which would later become a theme in many of his works. However, Vonnegut found his refuge from his home life by joining the school newspaper. After high school, Vonnegut attended Cornell, where he became the managing editor of the paper (Allen). Vonnegut’s early life made a lasting impact on his writing. He set almost all his books in his hometown, which he used to symbolize American values. Vonnegut himself said, “If I ever severed myself from Indianapolis, I would be out of business. What people like about me is Indianapolis” (Boomhower). Although Vonnegut enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1940, he never pushed himself as a serviceman for consideration as an officer because, in his opinion, they were “shits.” His hatred of officers encouraged his negative view of war. Furthermore, Vonnegut struggled in the Army since, as a third generation German-American, his name was more German that most of the enemies he was attempting to kill (Sutherland 589). His ethnicity struggles along with the suicide of his mother on Mother’s Day just before traveling overseas, were strong encouragements of his antiwar opinion. From a struggling family, to a jobless and depressed father, to an alcoholic suicidal mother, Vonnegut dealt with constant hardships, all of which...