The year is 2081, and everyone is finally equal in every way. Beautiful faces are covered with hideous masks, and intelligent men are required to wear a radio that sends out noise. It is a world where no one is uglier or stupider. This is the starting point of “Harrison Bergeron”.
Or perhaps a story about an army colonel whose plane landed on the Asiatic mainland and who had to face the communist leader during the Cold War and had to play human chess with his family and men as the pieces could be more interesting. This story is called “All the King’s Horses”.
In this short story collection, one of America’s most famous writer and humorist Kurt Vonnegut brings stories that convey a general yet perceptive message to humankind. Stories such as “Welcome to the Monkey House” are futuristic tales set in a depressing time where suicide and sterilization are recommended due to overpopulation. Stories such as “The Manned Missiles” address the problem of war, of its consequences that could have a devastating effect on the people. “The Euphio Question” introduces a sound which makes the listeners happy to the point of being euphoric, thereby criticizing those who seek to buy happiness rather than work for it. These stories are full of wit and laughter, but are at the same time invaluable lessons that provide an insightful and sharp perspective of our modern society.
At this point, some readers argue that his ideas and messages are banal, that there is nothing new to his attempts to stop wars or materialism. However, what is most surprising in this collection is perhaps the clarity and honesty with which he speaks that makes any ludicrous situation seem real. He never says that missiles shouldn’t be fired; he simply portrays two fathers of countries in conflict who has to admit that his son died inside a missile, but couldn’t do anything about it. What he’s trying to say might be what we have heard dozens of times, but the stories are intertwined and crafted with a subtlety and concision that cannot be easily imitated, proving to be a worthy read.
The start of a new semester, the end of a vacation can be a stressful and difficult time to everyone. Filled with worries and works that need to be done, many people cannot find the time to read a long novel at this period. A “bite” of Vonnegut’s short stories- which could be counted as timeless classics after almost 50 years of its publication- will be a meaningful and inspiring way to start a new month.
BY Suzy Park ‘18