Sample Term Paper
Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s ‘Mother Night’ is a masterpiece of Black Humor. Mother Night, is presented as the work of one Howard W. Campbell, Jr. who is a prisoner awaiting trial in Israel for Nazi war crimes, with Vonnegut as the editor of the work. Unlike many of Vonnegut’s other works, the story is not concerned with the future, it is set in present day settings with Howard reminiscing about his past. Howard dedicates his recollections to Mata Hari, a Dutch exotic dancer who was executed by the French on the charge of spying for Germany. Campbell identifies himself with Mata Hari, who, if the charges against her are to be believed, allowed French government officials to violate her, in order to gain information for Germany. Campbell too feels thoroughly and completely used and violated:
“I closed my eyes windingly.’What is it they say in the Chicago Stockyards about what they do to a pig?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Wirtanen.
‘They boast that they find a use for everything about a pig but his squeal,’ I said.
‘So?’ said Wirtanen.
‘That’s how I feel right now — ‘ I said, ‘Take a pig that’s been taken apart, who’s had experts find a use for every part. By God — I think they even found a use for my squeal! The part of me that wanted to tell the truth got turned into an expert liar! The lover in me got turned into a pornographer; The artist in me got turned into ugliness such as the world has rarely seen before.’
‘Even my most cherished memories have now been converted into cat food, glue and liverwurst!’ I said” (Vonnegut Jr.).
In the introduction, Vonnegut rededicates the text that he has ‘edited’ to Campbell himself, “a man who served evil too openly and good too secretly, the crime of his time” (Vonnegut Jr.). In his introduction to his ‘edited text’ Vonnegut ascribes a moral to the story; “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be” (Vonnegut Jr.). The story Campbell recounts in his cell is this: Before the Second World War, Howard W. Campbell was an American writer living in Germany. He was married to a German woman, Helga and deeply in love with her. At the start of the war Campbell was approached by American intelligence and agreed to become a secret agent. He took up a job as a Nazi radio host and propagandist. He broadcasted secret messages out of Germany coded in his racist propaganda broadcasts. Campbell was extremely good as a Nazi propagandist, as his father-in-law, a Nazi police official notes; “you could never have served the enemy as well as you served us” (Vonnegut Jr.).
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