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Kurt Vonnegut - Monkey House

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”Welcome to the monkey house” by Kurt Vonnegut

The story takes place in the not-so-distant future in an overpopulated world, with an over dominating government. There are way to few jobs and people are forced to take a special medicine, which make them feel numb from the waist down and not feel attracted to sex nor the other gender.
The main character is a criminal mastermind named Billy the Poet, whose quest is to deflower the hostesses. The hostesses are women who help the citizens with committing suicide. The government are advertising suicide because of the world’s overpopulation. Billy the Poet kidnaps one of the hostesses named Nancy McLuhan, and deflowers her without abusing her in any way. At last Billy lets her go with a changed mind and a bottle of regular birth control pills.

“Welcome to the monkey house” are from a novel collection by Kurt Vonnegut.
The main character is, Billy the Poet. He is described as very dangerous and very wanted by the government, but he’s a good person who only wants the best for other people. Billy the Poet does not take his medication given by the government and he wants to let women off the medication too. Every women whose seen Billy and gotten deflowered by him, lies to the government to protect Billy. He is a rebel who fights against the government and fights for freedom of mankind.
The hostesses, taken as prisoner by Billy, name is Nancy McLuhan and works at the Ethical Suicide Service. She’s a strong and wilful woman. All the hostesses know karate and jujitsu to protect themselves from guys like Billy the poet. Under the kidnapping she keeps waiting for the right moment to strike on Billy, but it never happens. Even though she is tough, Billy softens her at the end.

The story is a dystopian work. We can tell from the unconstructive and controlled society with environmental, political and social issue of the overpopulation. Everyone is forced by the government to do as told exactly, and everyone is living in a world opposite to utopia. But the citizens know not to the government’s controlling and manipulating system, because of the pills. That’s why they call Billy a “criminal mastermind”.
One of the subgenres is sexuality. Vonnegut wrote the short story in the 60’s, the same time as the big “sex revolution”, where a lot of debate about sexual representativeness and birth control were very topical.

Kurt Vonnegut uses a lot of symbols in this story. For example at the Kennedy Museum, Billy deflowers Nancy in an exhibition boat. The boat is a symbol of Nancy moving towards other thoughts – just like a boat is sailing towards another country.
Another symbol is when Nancy wakes up in the bed and she dreamed of mosquitoes and bees, which were extinct. Nancy can finally see further when she’s off the medicine, and that’s why she dreamed of the mosquitoes and bees. They are welcoming her to the real world.

Kurt Vonnegut uses a lot irony as well. Even the title is ironic, it expresses that we all live in a monkey house and that the human mankind is like a monkey house, with the government as zookeepers. The Ethical Suicide Service is also quite ironic. It is called ethical because the government wrapped it up, so people don’t get scared.
“One pronging was the encouragement of ethical suicide, which consisted of going to the nearest Suicide Parlor and asking a Hostess to kill you painlessly while you lay on a Barcalounger.”
The writer Vonnegut uses sarcasm and makes it sound natural to commit suicide.
Another sarcastic moment in the text, is where Billy asks Nancy how much the thermometer will fall if he committed suicide:
“One inch on that thing equals 83.333 people. You knew that, didn't you?”
This can be interpreted as the majority rules the nation.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote this story as a rebellion against birth control, sex and the American society in the 1960’s. He uses the satire and irony creatively to get America on the right track. The 60’s consisted of sex revolution and Billy the Poet is Kurt Vonnegut’s savior for sexual freedom.
Vonnegut also makes up with Christianity and the church in America. Most of the people don’t have jobs, and sits at home while watching television about suicide, and how they should “worship the church”.
The world as it seems in the story is overpopulated and a chaos because of sex. But Billy the Poet tells the actual truth: “There is nothing like an Easter morning to make a man feel clean and reborn and at one with God's intentions.” (...) “So we went to the monkey house together, ad what do you think we saw?” (...) “We saw a monkey playing with his private parts”! (...) “And J. Edgar Nation was so upset he went straight home and he started developing a pill that would make monkeys in the springtime fit things for a Christian family to see.“
Later on the pill was made for humans too.
It’s a critique to Christians and the Christian attitude to sex.
It is actually because of this J. Edgar Nation, the world looks as it does in that previous time.
J. Edgar Nation derives from J. Edgar Hoover, who was the boss of FBI and later on revealed for cheating documents of the state.

The story is very similar to Kurt Vonnegut’s other short story “Harrison Bergeron”. Harrison Bergeron is comparable with Billy the Poet. They’re both rebels against the system, which is controlled by the government’s either handicap or pills. And they both know they can’t take down the system by their own, but they can try to make a difference.

The story “Welcome to the monkey house” is very provoking and it tells the reader how wrong this could end and how the world could look in the future.

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