The Sirens of Titan Essay - Critical Evaluation

Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Critical Evaluation

The book’s disclaimer is a superbly creative and tongue-in-cheek way to begin. It reads: “All persons, places, and events in this book are real. . . . No names have been changed to protect the innocent since God Almighty protects the innocent as a matter of heavenly routine.” The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut’s second novel, was originally published as pulp science fiction. There was no respectable hardcover edition. The book’s satire and depth was not perceived until many years later, after Vonnegut had achieved fame through Slaughterhouse-Five (1969). The Sirens of Titan was written in less than two months; the plot line was determined over cocktails at a party. Vonnegut took the job writing it because the magazine market was not as good as the science fiction novel market, and he could make more money in two months on a novel. In The Sirens of Titan, Vonnegut fashioned several characters and scenes that were employed in his later novels. The invention of the planet Tralfamador is one of these. The Martian recruiters were characters he had used in a story for the Saturday Evening Post.

The theme of The Sirens of Titan is whether or not human history is meaningful. The answer and the moral, as often found in Vonnegut’s books, are to love whoever is around to be loved, to abandon expectations, and to live fully in the moment at hand. In the caves of Mercury, Boaz states, “I don’t know what’s going on and I’m probably not smart enough to understand if somebody was to explain it to me. All I know is we’re being tested somehow, by somebody or some thing a whole lot smarter than us, and all I can do is be friendly and keep calm and try to have a nice time till it’s over.”

Rumfoord is the most intricate character in this novel. Vonnegut said that Rumfoord is based on Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Rumfoord’s personal dilemma is that he is...

(The entire section is 792 words.)