Burnings and Mysteries

We read a letter from Kurt Vonnegut to a high schools head of the school board for demanding his book, Slaughterhouse-Five be burned. Before reading the letter based on what a classmate already knew about Vonnegut, we expected the letter to be harsher and less controlled as we learned that Vonnegut wasn’t afraid to voice his opinions. After reading the letter, we realized it was different in some ways from his normal approach to writing. For example, he made his point very clear but he did so in a mostly mature and calm way. Another important part of the letter was the fact that Vonnegut emphasized he is real. He did this by talking about his experience with his own family and that they turned out fine even though they were exposed to certain themes some people think children shouldn’t be exposed to. He argues that exposing children to certain themes or ideas won’t make them monsters or bad people and it’s important to show children all ideas instead of hiding them. Also when Vonnegut says, “I am writing this letter to let you know how real I am.” he does so as a way of saying he is a real person. He also says this because he thinks you wouldn’t burn someone’s work in front of them and the reason why the school did this is because they don’t really know or have the wrong idea of who Vonnegut is. This is why he almost has to prove he is real by giving examples of things real people do like raise a family. As mature as the letter is it also feels sort of threatening. In some parts of the letter, I think he is implying he could do things if he needed to. He does this by writing about how he is a big and tall man that knows how to use tools and has a Purple Heart. I don’t think he would think violence is the answer but it just adds to the idea of him being a real person. Class this week was also focused on reading epistolary fiction. One of the stories I read was A Wilderness Station by Alice Munro. One thing I found interesting about this story was all the characters had letters written to or from them except for Simon, who was killed. I’m wondering why the author chose not to add anything from him before he died. I think it would have been helpful to know more about the relationships between Simon and his brother and wife from his perspective. The story left me with a lot of questions like what did Annie and George talk about when they met up after all those years? I think it is supposed to be up to the reader’s interpretation but I’m still curious about what the author had in mind for this part and other mysterious parts of the story. I liked that there could be various ideas of who killed Simon and you have to use whatever evidence is in the letters to form your opinion. Plus we don’t know what if anything is being left out. It is also helpful to hear from most of the characters’ perspectives instead of just having one main character.

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