Like other Vonnegut protagonists, Howard Campbell tends to speak aphoristically. He tells the reader a number of things that are good for the reader to know or emulate. For example, in reply to the supposition that he hates America, Campbell replies, “That would be as silly as loving it. . . . It’s impossible for me to get emotional about it, because real estate doesn’t interest me.” Elsewhere he says that “nationalities” do not interest him. He refers to himself as a “stateless person.” Once he draws a swastika, a hammer and sickle, and a United States flag on his window and says, “Hooray, hooray, hooray.” So much for patriotism. In this way Campbell presents one of the more important of Vonnegut’s teachings.
Another of Vonnegut’s lessons requires that Campbell (who was a successful playwright in Germany) admit that if Germany had won, there was every chance that he “would have become a sort of Nazi Edgar Guest, writing a daily [newspaper] column of optimistic doggerel. . . .” While this admission conflicts tentatively with the antipatriotic theme, it serves the equally important idea that most Americans probably would have behaved like most Nazis, placed in the same situation. As the reader comes to identify more closely with Campbell, he is led to the brink of seeking a way possibly to forgive the Nazis—to forgive unspeakable evil. This hope is perhaps thwarted, however, by Campbell’s inability to forgive himself (hence his...
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