An Exegesis on the Writing of Kurt Vonnegut

WELCOME TO THE MONKEY HOUSE by Kurt,Vonnegut, Jr. (copyright 1960), is a collection of stories ranging from science fiction to wartime situations. The common denominator is the author's satiric mockery of human institutions and behavior. In this article, I will restrict my analysis to two stories I have enjoyed teaching to high school students.

"A Long Walk to Forever" is a gentle satire of the societal institution of matrimony that has overshadowed and complicated the natural response of falling in love. The only characters who appear and speak are a girl named Catharine and her long-time friend, Newt. The two "had grown up next door to each other, on the fringe of a city, near fields and woods and orchards, within sight of a lovely bell tower that belonged to a school for the blind."

The twenty-year-olds had not seen each other for about a year, since Newt had joined the army. "There had always been playful, comfortable warmth between them, but never any talk of love."

Newt comes for a visit and knocks on Catherine's door. Catherine had not been expecting anyone. She had been reading a "fat, glossy magazine . . . devoted entirely to brides."

Newt asks Catherine if she can come for a walk with him. "'A walk?' said Catherine.

'One foot in front of the other,' said Newt, 'through leaves, over bridges.'"

Each time one of the characters speaks, there is an identical speaker tag - "he said," or "she said." When I used to teach the story, I always read it aloud. The repetitiousness always puzzled students and seemed at first a writing fault they did not expect in the work of a writer of Vonnegut's ability.

Before they start on their walk, Newt asks to see the magazine Catharine is carrying. Catharine hands it to him adding that she is getting married in a week and is very busy.

"'If we go for a walk,' he said, 'it will make you rosy. It will make you a rosy bride.' He turned the pages of the magazine. 'A rosy bride like her - like her - like...