Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Welcome To The Monkey House

One of the readings I have encountered in a literature essay that I’ve pretty much finished, is a short story by Kurt Vonnegut called Welcome To The Monkey House. The story is set in an overpopulated dystopian future where the use of ‘ethical’ birth control numbs all feeling below the waist. The ethical birth control is mandatory, and anyone who refuses to use it is called a nothinghead. On top of the ethical birth control, another measure to handle the overpopulation situation is the suicide clinics, akin to the suicide booths seen in Futurama (no, Fry, that’s NOT a telephone booth).
Though the story was somewhat odd, I was enjoying it for the most part. At least, I was until the character it follows, Nancy—one of the suicide nurses—is kidnapped by the bad guy in the story, Billy the Poet. Despite being the bad guy, the story is written in such a way that it tries to make you sympathise with her kidnapper. Sympathising with the aforementioned kidnapper was made pretty much impossible when near the end of the story he has his group of rebel nothingheads hold Nancy down, then he proceeds to rape her whilst holding a gun to her head. Though in the story rape is never mentioned, no, it’s called deflowering. To add sting to the rape… well, how about I just quote the scene:

"The women who helped you tonight--"
"What about them?"
"You've done to them what you did to me?"
He didn't look up from his book. "That's right."
"Then why don't they kill you instead of helping you?"
"Because they understand." And then he added mildly, "They're grateful."
Nancy got out of bed, came to the table, gripped the edge of the table, leaned close to him. And she said to him tautly, "I am not grateful."
"You will be."

The rapist tells her she will be grateful. Now, I’m not quite sure what the narrator is trying to get across here. In the story, the ethical birth control has worn off on Nancy at the time, and to show her what sex is like Billy the Poet rapes her. It is intended as some sort of sexual liberation. The dystopian future is used as an excuse to frame a story where rape might be deemed an appropriate thing. Maybe I’m reading it wrong, and Vonnegut isn’t all for the rape. But it really seems like he is. People will likely tell me I’m interpreting this all wrong, but I couldn’t help but draw parallels from this to corrective rape happening in South Africa. Lesbians and transgender women in South Africa have been raped in a bid to ‘cure’ them of their respective sexual and gender orientations.1 And it’s absolutely sickening. This is exactly the same thing.
The icing on the cake was finding out that this short story was originally published in Playboy magazine. The suicide nurse, Nancy, is sexualised by her attire, and is a virgin. It’s exceedingly difficult for me to interpret this in a non sexual way. All I see is an excuse for rape to be in his story, and somehow be justified, then published for thousands of horny men in the sixties to read. I only had a measly 250 or so words in which to talk about this in the essay, as there were other readings to be analysed, but I think I managed to get my complaints across. This blog post is simply an added unstructured rant to go on top of it. It’s also a place where I can say how disappointed I am to have this be my first Kurt Vonnegut story. I enjoyed his style of writing, and I enjoyed his humour. But I know any future readings of his stories will be coloured by my feelings from having read this. The fact that I am so disappointed in Welcome To The Monkey house doesn’t fill me with any enthusiasm to discover more of his work, and that’s quite saddening.

In other, less dreary news, I’ve finished the first draft of my literature essay! Which is a nice accomplishment. It’s only Tuesday, and it’s not due until Friday. All I really have left is some proofreading, and if needed a bit of rewriting. This is a rather refreshing feeling for me considering my general non-studious ways. On top of having the essay pretty much done, I have also—finally—taken the time to write some more of the novel I’m working on. Which is awesome—getting writing done is awesome, the novel is still amateur level trash, but it’s my amateur level trash damn it! One day I may even talk about what the story is about here, if any interest is professed (this is making the assumption that anyone actually reads this blog).

I’ve also just finished a rather sarcastic short fantasy novel by Sarah Rees Brennan. Or, it’s sort of a novel, anyway, you can find out more about it—and actually read the whole thing—here.
I implore you to check her out. It’s the first thing of hers I’ve read since the Demon’s Lexicon back when I was oh, eighteen or so, and it’s quite a fun read. Despite the, ah, awkward young age of the relatively sexual protagonist.


It’s been raining for the last few days. I’ve had the washing up since the weekend, and have still yet to take it down. I don’t have enough room to hang it all up inside. In fact, it’s pouring out there as I write this blog. I’m only pretending to be an adult, really.

I’m still trying to find my feet in the blogosphere. I reckon if I stick at it long enough I’ll figure out what it is that I’m doing, and what it is that I want to say.

Novel word count: 63,461

1 You can find an article about it here, but if you don’t feel like reading it I don’t blame you.

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