Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Short Story Review: Welcome to the Monkey House

Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonnegut is a short story about sex and population growth. The government is in charge of population growth through the use of different designated areas where people can go to die. The protagonist of the story is Billy the Poet who represents sex and noncompliance. The short story is an example of a dystopian world because in it there are many characteristics of how a utopia can go wrong.
This is a dystopia because of the fact that this world has control over population, sex, death, and even what people watch and hear. In this world there are 17 billion people, and as such the World Government has two ways to combat overpopulation, ethical suicides and compulsory ethical birth control. People here are expected to actually go to a designated parlor and die, and it is as normal as if they were only going to a burger joint. Another example of how this is a dystopia is the way in which pleasure is taken out of sex, it is through the pills people take that numbs them and does not allow for pleasure. The use of anti-aging shots is also quite dystopian because it made everyone appear to be twenty-two, and though it can seem to be a positive thing, it is simply not natural to actually be sixty-three and appear to be twenty-two. These things make this world dystopian because people actually go to a place which is designated for people to come and die, something that in a utopia would not happen. Also, the fact that there is control over growth population is what makes it dystopian, this is something that should not be in control of the government in a utopian world.
The point of this story was perhaps on the topic of birth-control since this was written in 1968. The birth control pill had only been approved by the FDA for contraceptive use in 1960, and years following were controversial for many reasons. An example of such controversy was within the African-American community who believed Planned Parenthood was committing genocide because they were providing the pill in poor, minority neighborhoods. In the short story, the goal is to stop overpopulation and it was aimed specifically at the common people, or in other words the poorer people who seemed to be the nothingheads. As such, it might be that Kurt Vonnegut was incorporating what was happening in the United States to demonstrate a dystopian world where the pill was indeed a way to control common people or poor people.
            All in all, I believe this short story is worthy to read because it demonstrates how control over population can actually bring about problems. For one, the pleasure in sex is removed and that is not a world where people ought to be. Having suicide parlors is quite scary because people can choose when to die and it is a normal occurrence, rather than an unexpected death or natural death. This short story can be tied to the larger picture which is the control the government or the rich can have over the common/poor man. Throughout the story it is clear that the entity calling the shots was the World Government, and it was their idea to use suicide parlors and birth-control pills to combat overpopulation. Billy the Poet himself brings it up when he says, “You’ll find that the people who have been most eager to rule, to make laws, to enforce the laws and to tell everybody exactly how God Almighty wants things here on Earth… have been absolutely disgusted and terrified by the natural sexuality of common men and women.” (Vonnegut, 49) This can be interpreted as more than just the sexuality of the common men and women, this can be seen as a criticism of the few who “rule”, or in this case govern, the common men and women. These few are the ones making the decisions of how things ought to be, and in doing so they remove the humanity out of the common man and woman.

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