SENATOR ROSEWATER: “… don’t play God to people, or they will slobber all over you, take you for everything they can get, break commandments just for the fun of being forgiven – and revile you when you are gone.”
KILGORE TROUT: “Americans have been taught to hate all people who will not or cannot work, to hate even themselves for that.” – mindset regarding poverty and uselessness – they ‘hate’ those who are without wealth (equating that to a lack of work and seeing them as having nothing to offer)
“Uselessness will kill strong and weak souls alike” – that if ‘use’ is equated with ability to accumulate wealth; the idea of ‘uselessness’ of being the downfall
Calls Eliot’s efforts a ‘social experiment’ which addresses the problem: “How to love people who have no use?”
“people treasuring people as people”
“It seems to me that the main lesson Eliot learned is that people can use all the uncritical love they can get.’ p.164)
The headline in The American Investigator reads: SANEST MAN IN AMERICA? (SEE INSIDE) p.158
“…legally acknowledge that every child in Rosewater County said to be mine is mine, regardless of blood type.”
” Let their names be Rosewater from this moment on. And tell them that their father loves them, no matter what they may turn out to be. And tell them…to be fruitful and multiply” [last words of the text]
For your consideration:
- What is the Senator’s view the world and the future of his fortune?
- Who does Kilgore Trout represent?
- What Christian elements are present at the messages at the end of the text?
- Who is insane at the end of the novel? What is being suggested about sanity?
Read the assessment task in the below and use the links and the topic breakdown to guide you through the process:
“Vonnegut’s satire is full of lessons both learned and unlearned.” Discuss this passage with reference to the whole novel.
PASSAGE: (on handout)
p.103- ‘….And the donor and his descendants become undistinguished members of the whining poor.’ pl 104
To check the assessment criteria:
To see a sample passage analysis approach:
ASSESSMENT TOPIC BREAK DOWN
“Vonnegut’s satire is full of lessons both learned and unlearned.” Discuss this passage (about Stewart Buntline p.103-4) with reference to the whole novel.
- What lesson/s are on offering in this passage? About what aspects of life ? What is the significance of these in relations to the test of the text
- What lessons are characters offered elsewhere in the text? By whom to whom? What is the significance of this?
- What learning/lack of learning occurs in this process?
- Can the whole text be construed as a ‘lesson’ about anything? What does Vonnegut set out to teach us about and how is that achieved?
Key concepts: altruism, charity, socialism, capitalism, satire, meritocracy, class, wealth, greed, status, self-interest, opportunism, the American Dream, insanity, patriotism
This is a post in action. I will add to it as I go – collecting key quotations and linking references and allusions so that you can understand their significance. For each topic, read the quotations; add quotations or observations of your own; create your own set of ‘Vonnegut suggests….’ statements to your list based on what he shows through his text.
ART and SCIENCE
“From 1947 until 1953, the Rosewater Foundation spent fourteen million dollars. Eliot’s benefactions covered the full eleemosynary spectrum from a birth control clinic in Detroit to an El Greco for Tampa, Florida.” (Ch 2)
Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the ‘To be or not to be‘ speech.
Sylvia, McAllister and the Senator discuss Eliot’s ‘poetry’. Sylvia recalls that Eliot was writing the smae message in men’s lavatories all about New York: “If you would be unloved and unforgotten, be reasonable.” (p.56)
Eliot has an unfinished novel: ‘Those who write on Heaven’s walls/Should mold their shit in little balls./And those who read these lines of wit/Should eat these little balls of shit.’ (p.66)
When Eliot’s father bemoans Eliot not being who he used to be, Eliot responds with “‘You want me to start buying paintings for museums again? Would you be prouder of me, if I’d contributed two and a half million dollars to buy Rembrandt’s Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer?'” .
PORNOGRAPHY AND THE OBSCENE
Mushari finds a copy of the Kama Sutra of VitsayanaKama Sutra of Vitsayana ‘the long-suppressed oriental manual on th art and techniques of love‘ buried in ‘rawest pornography’ along with ‘tattered copies of every book Trout had ever written’p.12
“He [Mushari] didn’t understand that what Trout had in common with pornography wasn’t sex but fantasies of an impossibly hospitable world” (ch 2, p13)
Get With Child a Mandrake Root is the manuscript of a book that Eliot is reading which is a line from a poem called ‘Go Catch a Falling Star’ by John Donne which asks if it is possible to find a beautiful and fair woman but suggests wistfully that she would turn false by the time he finds her.
‘The Rosewater Law was what the SEnator thought of as his legislative masterpiece’ (p.58)…’Obscenity, it said, is any picture or phonograph record or any written matter calling attention to reproductive organs, bodily discharges, or bodily hair.’ (p.59)
The psychoanalyst discusses accepted sexual arousal and what he diagnoses as Eliot Rosewater’s peversion with the Senator: ‘Becuase of crossed wires, the unhappy man enthusiastically goes straight to the wrong place [with his sex], proudly, vigorously does some hideously inappropirate thing; and he can count himself luchy if he is simply crippled for life by a police force rather than killed by a mob.” When the Senator asks to where Eliot’s sexual energies are focussed, the psycholanalyst says: ‘To Utopia.’ (p.60)
CHRISTIANITY AND SAINTLINESS
Written on the wall of a phone booth: “Eliot Rosewater is a saint. He’ll give you love and money. If you’d rather have the best piece of tail in southern Indiana, call Melissa.” (p. 62)
SUICIDE AND DEATH
Eliot takes a call from a fretful man who accuses him of sounding drunk and demands ‘Who the hell are you?” and explains: ‘The Government. If I’m not a Church, and I still want to keep people from killing themselves, I must be the Government. Right?’ He proceeds to judge how close to suicide the caller is by refusing him a million dollars and bargaining him down to one hundred.
“Sons of suicides seldom do well.” (p.88)
The carpenter’s suicide benefits the wife since he is ‘worth twenty thousand dollars dead’ and this gives Fred job satisfaction as he explains, ‘It comes when I have a bride come up to me and say, “I don’t know how the children and can ever thank you enough for what you’ve done. God bless you, Mr. Rosewater.”‘(p.89)
“In 2BRO2B he hypothesised an America in which almost all of the work was done by machines, and the only people who could get work had three or more PhDs There was a serious overpopulation problem, too’
Stella Wakeby guiltily to Eliot over the phone as she switches her allegieance to ask for help: ‘We always said we were Senator Rosewater people and not Eliot Rosewater people.’ (p.69)
Eliot’s advice to those who were ‘down in the dumps for every reason and no reason in particular: ‘Dear, I tell you what to do – take an asprin tablet, and wash it down with a glass of wine.'(p.64)
Eliot on the baptism he will give Mary Moody’s twins: “Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. IT’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies -: ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.'” (p.79_
THE ANGEL that presided o’er my birth
Said ‘Little creature, form’d of joy and mirth,
Go, love without the help of anything on earth.
The original text:
The Angel that presided oer my birth
Said Little creature formd of Joy & Mirth
Go love without the help of any King on Earth.
And later, the third stanza of another poem by Blake, The Clod and the Pebble:
“Love seeketh only self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another’s loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite.”