Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

In Player Piano, is technological advancement part of the problem, part of the solution, or both? Explain what the novel indicates about Kurt Vonnegut’s likely attitude toward modern technology.

In Mother Night, what does Vonnegut show about how and why human beings are prone to self-deception? Does he offer any ideas about how self-deception can be minimized, if not avoided?

How does Billy Pilgrim’s being “unstuck in time” affect how the novel Slaughterhouse-Five is structured or constructed? In which of Vonnegut’s other novels is this “unstuck in time” technique utilized? Is there a valid psychological basis for this technique? If so, what is it?

What view of religion is reflected in Cat’s Cradle?

How is the structural technique or characterization device of descent into a psychological underground and then emergence with a new, and better, understanding of the world involved in three of Vonnegut’s novels? In each instance, what has the main character learned by the experience?

Based upon Bluebeard, what makes a great painting and, by implication, a great novel? How does Bluebeard itself embody or fail to embody the qualities of great literature?

Based upon Hocus Pocus, what are Vonnegut’s beliefs about the Vietnam War, and about war in general?

Did the main character in Hocus Pocus deserve to be fired as a teacher? Justify your opinion with specifics from the novel, and with explanation of what personal qualities and intellectual abilities a good teacher possesses.