This thematically and narratively complex book tells the life story of Walter Starbuck, ex-socialist, ex-capitalist, and ex-con. Moving fluidly back and forth between past and present, incident and insight, irony and irony, the novel explores themes relating to the tension between capitalism and communism, layers of meaning inherent in layers of identity, fact, and fiction, and the interconnectedness of all things.
The novel begins with a lengthy prologue written in the character of the author and ostensibly a summary of the novel's historical origins. While some elements of what is described here are obviously real, others are just as obviously fictionalized, giving the early (and clear) sense that the lines between what is fiction and what is fact are, in this book at least, quite blurred.
The narrative proper begins with the protagonist, the elderly Walter Starbuck, in prison. As he waits for the guard to conduct him...
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The Jailbird Study Pack contains about 57 pages of study material in 11 products, including:
Jailbird Study Guide
Kurt Vonnegut Biographies (7)
4,905 words, approx. 17 pages
Described as "a word cartoonist, a wise guy, a true subversive," by Valerie Sayers in the New York Times, Kurt Vonnegut is lauded as one of America's most respected novelists, "recognized as a thought...
1,363 words, approx. 5 pages
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (born 1922) is acknowledged as a major voice in American literature and applauded for his pungent satirical depictions of modern society. Emphasizing the comic absurdity of the huma...
7,749 words, approx. 26 pages
As of 1977, Vonnegut's work includes eight novels, a play and a television play, two collections of short stories, a collection of essays, and a number of uncollected shorter pieces of fiction and non...
4,015 words, approx. 14 pages
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., remains something of a paradox among science-fiction writers. Although his place of importance in serious American fiction is now secure, his relationship to the genre that nurture...
16,774 words, approx. 56 pages
[This entry was updated by Peter J. Reed (University of Minnesota) from his entry in DLB 152: American Novelists Since World War II, Fourth Series.]Though Kurt Vonnegut had been a widely read short-st...
14,474 words, approx. 49 pages
Biography EssayAs of 1987 Kurt Vonnegut's work includes twelve novels, a play and a television play, two collections of short stories, two collections of essays, and a miscellany of uncollected shorte...
8,243 words, approx. 28 pages
"I got to be a joke-maker as the youngest member of my family. My sister was five years older than I was, my brother was nine years older, and at the dinner table I was the lowest ranking thing there....
Essays & Analysis (3)
466 words, approx. 2 pages
Critical Essay by John Mills
What we have in Jailbird is an extremely closely woven narrative built up of ironic juxtapositions and incongruities stated and counterpointed as in an elaborate symphony....
208 words, approx. 1 pages
Critical Essay by Eric Homberger
[In Jailbird] Vonnegut's manner, as usual, is jokey and faux naïf. He writes about serious matters—labour massacres and judicial murder in America...
178 words, approx. 1 pages
Critical Essay by Allen Belkind
Beneath the absurd comedy of [Jailbird] with its chance encounters and unlikely coincidences exists a dark undertone of satiric comment on the loneliness, corruption an...
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Jailbird Lesson Plans contain 100 pages of teaching material, including: