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An Attack On America
Vonnegut uses satire, from innocent innuendo and wit to burlesque, sarcasm and cosmic irony to attack American society in the 1950’s and 1960’s. These forms of satire can be seen in ‘Miss Temptation’, ‘Welcome to the Monkey House’ and ‘All the Kings Men’. In ‘Miss Temptation’, Susanna’s “diabolical beauty” (75) or evil beauty mad Puritanism to fall “into such disrepair” (75). The innuendo of Vonnegut’s opening sentence attacks the so-called modern thinkers of the day and the ignorance and attitudes of the 1950’s conformist people. Vonnegut compares American civilization to that of the Puritans, who were extremely intolerant of anything different and posses the epitome of conformity. Puritans did not even go to plays or shows, and Susanna was “an actress” (77). The theme of Puritanism and innocent sexual innuendo is carried on throughout the story. Hinkley laments that “all of [his] pleasures are looking at what used to be pleasures” (81). Hinkley along with the rest of the town, find their only enjoyment throughout the day is by watching Susanna’s “tinkling walk” around the town. Suppressed by Puritan attitudes, the townspeople can only enjoy Susanna from afar. Wit is also used in ‘Miss Temptation’, as Susanna uses it against Fuller. Susanna criticizes Fuller and the other “dumb toots” (86) who judge her y her appearance. She could not help it if Fuller wanted to “kiss her” (86) and asks, “whose fault is that?” (86). It was not Susanna’s fault that she was born with “feathery hair” (75) and black eyes. Fuller hated Susanna merely because she was a girl and supposedly made “more people unhappy” (78) than happy. It was not the town that was unhappy with Susanna, but Fuller who felt that “beautiful girls gave [him] a pain” (82). The wit and irony of it all is that Fuller caused Susanna more pain than he ever felt from a girl by excluding her from the human race. Sarcasm is also used in the story. Fuller criticizes American women as being “the greatest actresses in the world” (77), only to “put an ice cube” (77) in a man’s hand. In ‘Welcome to the Monkey House’, Puritan ethics and morals are taken a step farther to outlaw any pleasure including sex, even for reproduction, “thus science and morals go hand in hand” (31). Just like Fuller took the humanness out of Susanna because of her sexuality and sensualness, the ethical suicide parlors and ethical suicide pill took the humanness out of the society as a whole. Cosmic irony is also created in ‘Welcome to the Monkey House’. The society believed that “the world [was] a mess” (49) because of sex, when in reality it was because Edgar J. Norton “saw a monkey playing with his private parts” (36) and was offended, so he invented the pill to prevent this from ever happening to anything ever again. This action caused men and women to be “disgusted and terrified by natural sexuality” (49). Vonnegut also uses cosmic irony in ‘All the Kings Men’. Kelly tried to think of his men as “a cipher in a rigid mathematical proposition” (102) but knew that he “butchered [them] in senseless exchanges” (100). Kelly tried to make sense out of the world and out of war by using his intellect and knowledge of the chess game, he ended up creating havoc, by “choosing [who] x” (102) should be, or the people who should die. Burlesque irony and hyperbole are used in ‘Welcome to the Monkey House’. Vonnegut states that the world was so overpopulated that the “world government was making a two pronged attack” (30). The first way was by instituting ethical suicide parlors and the other way was by ethical birth control. Although it sounds convincing enough, suicide is not ethical and neither is this form of birth control. The pill took “every bit of pleasure out of sex” (31), but it was not “unnatural” (31) because it “did not interfere with the ability to reproduce” (31). Even though sex was not permitted within the society, the only way to die was to go to a “pretty, tough-minded, highly intelligent girl” (30). The society had a problem talking about it, because it was considered filthy and only “nothingheads” (33) did it or even thought about
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Dystopian literature, Humour, Comedy, Rhetorical techniques, Kurt Vonnegut, Miss Temptation, Welcome to the Monkey House, Satire, Irony, Vonnegut, Innuendo, Puritans
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