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Fates Worse Than Death Study Guide & Plot Summary

This Study Guide consists of approximately 76 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Fates Worse Than Death.
This section contains 685 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
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Fates Worse Than Death Summary & Study Guide Description

Fates Worse Than Death Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Fates Worse Than Death by Kurt Vonnegut.

Plot Summary

In Fates Worse Than Death, humorist Kurt Vonnegut examines the blindness of the American people to the hypocrisy of the Reagan Administration, bringing the Earth close to the point of extinction. A collage of articles, speeches and biographical interconnections move the analysis forward with examinations of history, literature, psychology and art.

Vonnegut's father is a tragic figure, denied his dreams by the Great Depression. His son Mark is a recovered schizophrenic who has written about it, and his mother's suicide is blamed on chemicals. Professional artists share children's natural intoxication with life until forced to earn money. Casualties among the writers Vonnegut cares about are heavy, and American literary history is foreshortened to where "generations" of writers are separated by less than twenty years. Hemingway, who writes in Vonnegut's childhood, is too bloodthirsty to be in vogue and like Harriet Beecher Stowe has faded in memory.

The words of the Requiem Mass are so horrific that Vonnegut writes an improvement, and the First Amendment could stand revision, to get around preachers who want it overruled, an evil Commission on Pornography and NRA advocacy of arming civilians. On the other hand, racism's decline is based on the Bill of Rights, and liberty's lusty birth cries need to be heard everywhere. Vonnegut with friend Bernard V. O'Hare endures internment as a POW and the firebombing of Dresden, which makes no militarily sense. MIT graduates should adopt an oath like doctors to protect them against evil employers. Neo-Cons are deluded in a comical way but have a tragic effect on dark-skinned poor people. Foreigners are buying up the U.S., as colonialists have other areas. Among the most tragic addictions is that of people hooked on preparations for war. Addicts of every sort should be cleaned up before they can hold high office.

Were hydrogen bombs not after mankind, death still would be, and there are fates worse than death, like slavery, which many have endured. Hydrogen bombs may yet serve as "eggs for new galaxies," or mankind may achieve unity through television, which has created a generation that need not fight to be disillusioned about war. Vonnegut tells Unitarian Universalists the "religious revival" has but two commandments: Stop thinking, and Obey! - something only soldiers do. Christians' bloodthirstiness comes from failing to love their neighbors as ordered; "Respect one another," could work but is unlikely to catch on because "Christianity Fails Again" is a widespread theme in folk literature. The finale will be when peace-loving Neo-Cons blow up the world. Advising his hearers, tongue-in-cheek, how to achieve political strength, Vonnegut warns against avoiding "Thou shalt not kill." Visiting civil war-torn Mozambique, Vonnegut finds its suffering so pervasive it leaves him emotionally empty.

Vonnegut's favorite translators are the late Russian, Rita Rait, despite the fact the Soviets have long pirated his works and now underpay him, and the Italian Roberta Rambelli. After addressing a group of translators, Vonnegut tries to commit suicide. Surviving, he thinks about a Ray Bradbury story in which Hemingway gets a more glamorous way out of life. Vonnegut agrees that American humorists grow to intolerably unfunny pessimists past a certain age, and he cancels campus appearance when he realizes that he can no longer "catch-and-release" audiences. In the 1960s, he briefly tries TM, but he finds that it resembles reading books, which leave one a wiser human being. Some suicidal people blaming it on brain wiring and chemistry, and some, like Vonnegut, blame the Universe. Humorists feel free to speak of life as a dirty joke, and most ancient writings moralize. Young writers ought to moralize in a reader-friendly way. Writing books is like any other job. Most of what people like about German culture comes from when the Germanys were many; that which they hate comes from when it is one. One American in four is of German descent, and sadly, the German-American Freethinker movement has not survived, for it could offer an extended family to millions of Americans whose big questions about life now go unanswered.

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This section contains 685 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our Fates Worse Than Death Study Guide
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Fates Worse Than Death from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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