Kurt Vonnegut

Technology has changed the way people live in many ways. It has impacted the world in both negative and positive ways as it will continue to do so throughout history. The author Kurt Vonnegut uses the influence of technology in many of his short stories. In the short story “Welcome to the Monkey House,” “Harrison Bergeron,” and “EPICAC” there is a common theme of dehumanization from technology/science and authority. Kurt Vonnegut also uses literary elements and techniques that are common in all three of these short stories.

Some techniques and elements such as characterization, style, conflict, setting, and or course the theme of his stories. In Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Welcome to the Monkey House” technology and authority play a vital role. “Vonnegut never abandons his theme of…science and technology and its social impact on society” (“The Role of Technology in Kurt Vonnegut’s Writing”). The setting of this story is sometime in the future like much of Kurt Vonnegut’s other stories.

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In the story it says, “So the world government was making a two-pronged attack on overpopulation” (Vonnegut, 30).

This is one time in which the government is brought up as a common theme in Vonnegut’s work. Technology plays a role when it comes to the pills that the people in this short story have to take in order to take the pleasure out of sex. In the story it also says, “The pills were so effective that you could blindfold a man who had taken one, tell him to recite the Gettysburg Address, kick him in the balls while he was doing it, and he wouldn’t miss a syllable” (Vonnegut, 31). This shows that these pills mentioned were an advancement in technology, especially in science.

These pills were a powerful advancement in science, which is a very common theme in Kurt Vonnegut’s works. This exact advancement in technology grows into a problem one way or another. Kurt Vonnegut “constantly warns of the bleak future due to the advancement of technology” (“The Role of Technology in Kurt Vonnegut’s Writing”). In this story he is warning that maybe someday if the issue of diseases spreading because of sex and overpopulation, worsens than maybe this advancement in pills will be used on our society. The conflict in this story is that there is one man who is rebelling against the law.

Billy the Poet was one man who was not willing to give up the pleasures in sex. Billy the Poet says, “I have spent this night, and many others like it, attempting to restore a certain amount of innocent pleasure to the world, which is poorer in pleasure than it needs to be” (Vonnegut, 50). This character is the one person throughout the short story that is trying to change people’s views on the law. Billy the Poet is fighting for something that he wants, and he wants for people to stop being so uptight and enjoy life with sex being a part of that.

In this short story “Vonnegut thematically demonstrates how relatively simple technology can lay waste to the world” (“Kurt Vonnegut”). In the short story “Harrison Bergeron,” Kurt Vonnegut also utilizes the theme of technology and government authority together. The setting of this story is also a very common used one in Vonnegut’s stories. The short story starts off with, “The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal” (Vonnegut, 7). In the style it is written in helps the reader determine what is going on in the story.

There is a dialogue developed in the story to inform the reader on what is going on. Vonnegut also describes some of the characters to give you an idea of the extent of the problem in the story. It says, “She must have been extraordinarily beautiful, because the mask she wore was hideous. And it was easy to see that she was the strongest and most graceful of all dancers, for her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two-hundred-pound men” (Vonnegut, 10). This gives the reader an idea that these people truly were in the search for equality.

It is evident that a key theme in Vonnegut’s writing is that “humanity is competing with machines for survival” (“The Role of Technology in Kurt Vonnegut’s Writing”). In this case Harrison Bergeron is competing with the fact that they are forced to wear mental handicaps so their knowledge is stunted. In the story it says, “ Harrison thrust his thumbs under the bar of the padlock that secured his head harness. The bar snapped like celery. Harrison smashed his headphones and spectacles against the wall. He flung away his rubber-ball nose” (Vonnegut, 12). The conflict of this story is definitely man versus society.

Harrison is the only one in this story who was willing to stand up for what he believed in much like Billy the Poet in “Welcome to the Monkey House. ” Kurt Vonnegut in this story stuck to his theme of dehumanization from technology and the government authority. Kurt Vonnegut’s other story “EPICAC” is much like “Welcome to the Monkey House” and “Harrison Bergeron” when it comes to the theme of the story. “A key theme in Vonnegut’s writing is a warm concern for humanity while being pessimistic about the ways of the present” (“Fire David…”). In this story the narrator uses a computer, EPICAC, to get a girl to like him.

In a way it shows a warm concern for the narrator because he needs a computer to write poems for him in order to get the girl to like him. This story is much like “Welcome to the Monkey House” and “Harrison Bergeron” in that the narrator has a goal that he is willing to struggle for. The narrator says, “I’m as romantic as the next guy, I think. It’s a question of singing so sweet and having it come out so sour. I never seem to pick the right words” (Vonnegut, 299). This was the narrator’s conflict; the fact that he did not know what to say to the person he loves to get her to love him back.

His solution was, turning to technology. The narrator turned to EPICAC and began a friendship with this computer. The narrator would have conversations with the computer saying, and the computer would make up poetry for Pat Kilgallen, the person the narrator was in love with. EPICAC would make up poems saying, “Where willow wands bless rill-crossed hollow, there, thee, Pat, dear, will I follow…” (Vonnegut, 301). This gives the reader an idea of the setting of this short story because there aren’t computers yet which are able to have an understanding of what love is and fall in love like EPICAC did.

This gives you the idea that the setting of this story is the future like “Welcome to the Monkey House” and “Harrison Bergeron. ” In the story EPICAC says, “I don’t want to be a machine, and I don’t want to think about war” (Vonnegut, 304). This once again shows that this story was written in the future because there aren’t computers yet that have an understanding of what they want or don’t want like EPICAC know he did not want to be a machine and did not want to think about war. Clearly, “EPICAC” falls under Kurt Vonnegut’s common theme of technology.

Evidently, Kurt Vonnegut has a common theme of government authority and dehumanization from technology in a few of his short stories. Three of his sort stories, “Welcome to the Monkey House,” “Harrison Bergeron,” and “EPICAC” shared this common theme and shared a common setting and conflict as well. Through the literary techniques and elements used by Kurt Vonnegut, such as characterization and style, it was proven that Kurt Vonnegut utilizes a common topic in some of his short stories.

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