Slaughterhouse-Five Author/Context
"The nature of his talent has been to realize just how strong the human imagination is; that no matter how pessimistic the conditions of the world may be, man still possesses the right to create his own reality." - Jerome Klinkowitz, on Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, on November 22, 1922, the third child of two middle-class parents. His father was an architect and his mother came from a socially prominent family. He grew up during the Great Depression, and saw his life transformed as his family lost much of its money. Vonnegut has said that his greatest cultural debts are to the comedians, such as Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, Jack Benny, and Charlie Chaplin, who kept him laughing even during the Great Depression.
He worked on both his high school and college newspapers, and in 1943 enlisted in the United States Army. He went to Cornell University. His father told him to study something useful, so he studied chemistry and biology. He was sent to war when a bout with pneumonia during his junior year cost him his draft deferrment. In 1944, when he was home on leave, his mother committed suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills. On December 22, 1944, Germans captured him at the Battle of the Bulge and he was a prisoner of war in Dresden, Germany, where he worked in a malt-syrup factory. In 1945, he experienced the Allied firebombing of Dresden, which killed between 135,000 and 250,000 civilians, even more than the U.S. dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
After the war, he worked for the Chicago News Bureau and studied Anthropology at the University of Chicago but did not gain his Master of Arts degree until 1971, when the department of Anthropology decided that his novel Cat's Cradle could serve as a thesis. His rejected thesis proposals included a comparative study of revolutionary groups such as French Cubists and the American Plains Indians Ghost Dance movement, and another,...