Satire in God Bless You, Mr Rosewater

One of the finest satirical programs to examine aspects of American culture and society is South Park. This episode examines people’s attitudes to charity and involves Randy campaigning to be able to live in a ‘shameless’ society – a society free from being shamed into donating to charity.

To understand how satire works, we should examine why a character or idea is presented in a certain way.  This will link back to the author’s criticisms of society and the way in which they create humour – exposing the flaws for our entertainment and enlightenment.

Complete the table Examining the techniques of satire in the opening chapters of Mr Rosewate1 (3)as we read Chapter 1.  Become familiar with the way a satirist like Vonnegut uses language to position the readers to accept or reject ideas.


Socialism and Capitalism

After you have chilled out listening to poet Gil Scott-Heron’s ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ you will be ready to read about the hefty subjects of socialism and capitalism.

Watch John Green’s crash course in Socialism and Capitalism to get a quick run down of the key differences between these ideologies.  Use the film to respond to the following questions in your blog posts.


God Bless You, Mr Rosewater: quotations

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.


“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 same 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?'” .  (Aristotle; Homer)


Rembrandt’s Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer



Mushari finds a copy of the Kama Sutra of Vitsayana ‘the long-suppressed oriental manual on the 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 history and uses of the magical mandrake according to modern witches)

‘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 perversion with the Senator:  ‘Because of crossed wires, the unhappy man enthusiastically goes straight to the wrong place [with his sex], proudly, vigorously does some hideously inappropriate thing; and he can count himself lucky 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)


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)


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 allegiance 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_

William Blake’s poetry in ‘God Bless You, Mr Rosewater’

p. 41 Poem by William Blake: The Angel that presided o’er my birth said...

THE ANGEL that presided o’er my birth
Said ‘Little creature, form’d[2] 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.”

If you are interested, read Blake’s other poems. Blake was also an artist and illustrated many of his poems. See them here.

By William Blake – Unknown, Public Domain,


Diving Deep into Rosewater: analysis


  •  Choose a passage of your choice and analyse it for features of a satire:
    • generalisation
    • incongruity
    • parody
    • exaggeration
    • inversion
  • Complete a table of examples and their effect.


  • Read your partner’s passage and annotate the text for the features of satire.
  • Share your findings with one another and mark your partner’s table of examples and effects.  Query by adding a question mark to any points which are contested or uncertain
  • Come up with a set of statements (at least four) about Vonnegut’s beliefs or message:

“Vonnegut suggests that….”