Vonnegut’s legacy runs deep

The inspirational man and effect he has had on literature is not forgotten

Vonnegut’s legacy runs deep

Kurt Vonnegut, the author of beloved stories and novels such as Slaughterhouse-Five, Breakfast of Champions and Cat’s Cradle, was someone many looked upon for wisdom and inspiration. He was indeed an interesting man with the ability to affect people with his powerful arrangements of words.

In short, he was someone likely to be remembered.

“Vonnegut was most meaningful to me as a Creative Writing major at IU because his work always served more of a purpose than entertainment,” English teacher Bobby Chin said. “He had the unique ability to make you laugh while raising your consciousness of the omnipresent evil of economic/social inequality. He can point out the ills in society without ever feeling overly cynical.”

Vonnegut was strongly aware of social problems and used his artistic writing as a vent for all his energy and to express more clearly what he believed is right. As President of the American Humanist Association, Vonnegut had been known for his humanist beliefs; humanism being a movement of philosophy and ethics that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings. He also spoke his general relatable wisdom simply and tastefully.

“For whatever reason of coincidence, the universe gave him pinpoint wisdom and the uncanny ability to write and speak what we all only vaguely sense,” English teacher Joe Tatum said about Vonnegut.

Some of the things Vonnegut said that held deeper meaning than at first glance are really clever and deserve a second look. For example, he has a particular relevance to personality and the making of one’s self in his straightforward quote, “we are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.”

“I think this one is particularly relevant to teenagers who quite naturally ‘try on’ different personalities and selves,” Tatum said about Vonnegut’s statement.

Another of his quotes about life simply states, “so it goes.”

“This is a Vonnegut refrain throughout his works that pretty much means horrible and absurd things happen while we’re alive. There’s nothing we can do about it, but we deal with it because we have to,” Tatum said.

Despite this last quote possibly forming a depressing aura around Vonnegut in the eyes of his readers, he had a lot more to offer with his wisdom than negativity, and not all of his opinions were dark. Vonnegut tells everyone, “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”

These words are uplifting and give off advice on how to live a happier life while also recommending that someone learn to detect happy moments altogether.

“Vonnegut is often seen as cynical and gloomy, but this can’t be further from the truth as seen in this quote that he said his ‘good uncle’ said to him from time to time when they were doing something as simple as drinking lemonade beneath a shade tree on a gleaming summer day,” Tatum said.

His life experiences also inspired Vonnegut  in his work and ideas. Having been born on November 11, 1922 here in Indianapolis, Indiana, Vonnegut graduated from Shortridge High School before attending college at Cornell University.

While at Cornell, he unlisted in the United States Army and was taken prisoner when captured during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. The experience gave him inspiration for his later and eventually well known novel, Slaughterhouse-Five and was the theme of at least six others. Vonnegut died on April 11, 2007 and the New York Times published his passing, describing him as “the counterculture’s novelist.”

Vonnegut was by far enlightened and gifted with awareness of the world, and his death didn’t and won’t stop people from hearing his words.

Vonnegut’s 8 tips for writing:

1.            Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2.            Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3.            Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4.            Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

5.            Start as close to the end as possible.

6.            Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things     happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7.            Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8.            Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.