Kurt Vonnegut D.P. Today Kurt Vonnegut is regarded as one of the foremost authors of American science fiction. His writing spans a wide array of works, including seminal novels such as Slaughterhouse Five and Cat’s Cradle. In addition to his longer work, Vonnegut is recognized for an array of short fiction…
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From the very outset, identity is established as a prominent theme. In this way, the story’s setting is a German World War II orphanage. This is a significant setting as it allows Vonnegut to explore the lives of individuals with conflicting identities, most prominently Joe. Vonnegut writes, “The village carpenter…always came out of his shop to…speculate, with idlers his shop attracted, the nationalities of the passing kid’s parents” and “See the little French girl…look at the flash of those eyes” (Vonnegut 132). In this way the setting is highly unique. While it is a German orphanage, it is contained in a zone of American occupation. Additionally, the children contained in the orphanage have traits of differing nationalities, such as skin color, accents, or unique hair, however many of them speak German. In this context, Vonnegut greatly complicates traditional notions of identity, as the children in this orphanage exhibit conflicting backgrounds. There is the further consideration of the time of the story occurring in World War II. As such, the atrocities of war can be viewed as creating an existential crisis that demands traditional boundaries of identity be reimagined. The themes of belonging and place are further advanced in Vonnegut’s characterization of Joe. ...
Clearly, Joe embodies a highly conflicted identity. While he has been given a notably German name – Karl Heinz – his skin color places him at odds with typical German culture. Additionally, Joe’s position as an outsider has led to his being imbued with a characteristic black American name – Joe Louis. Ultimately, in this characterization Vonnegut is deconstructing notions of identity and forcing the reader and Joe alike to consider exactly what constitutes a ‘self’. The themes of place and belonging are prominently implemented in terms of Joe’s own questioning of his background. While Joe is told by the nuns that his parental lineage is unknown, his suspicions are aroused when a boy Peter tells him that his mother was German and his father was American; notably, this multi-ethnic lineage – American and German – further complicates Joe’s identity. In terms of the theme of place, Joe begins to question the very nature of America and being an American. Vonnegut clarifies, “’What is an American?’ Joe said. ‘It is a person from another country.’ ‘Near here?’ ‘There are some near here, but their homes are far, far away – across a great deal of water.’ ‘Like the river?’ ‘More water than that Joe. More water than you could ever see” (Vonnegut 133). This dialogue allows Vonnegut the opportunity to construct a meditation on the notion of place. While Joe asks a simple question, one recognizes the nun’s difficulty in providing an objective answer; rather, the nun must resort to a location, rather than an intrinsic form of being ‘American’. Again there is the consideration of the story’s context being World War II. This war featured the deaths of millions of people based largely
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(“D.P Essay Example | Topics and Well Written Essays - 1000 words”, n.d.)
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(D.P Essay Example | Topics and Well Written Essays - 1000 Words)
“D.P Essay Example | Topics and Well Written Essays - 1000 Words”, n.d. https://studentshare.org/other/1401583-dp.
It is clear that the point of view of one of the children, nicknamed Joe, is the angle that the reader is supposed to view the story from. Things are presented from his point of view, and as a black child in a home full of white children, he has a problem fitting in.
The scenario of the war and the condition of the orphanage is explained by the fact that the house where these young children are living was basically a gamekeeper’s residence. These children come from different backgrounds and the story focuses upon the life of Joe who is a six year old boy and who is a black.
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