"That's most interesting. But I was no more a mind-reader then than today. I was weeping for an altogether different reason. When I watched you dancing that day, I saw something else. I saw a new world coming rapidly. More scientific, efficient, yes. More cures for the old sicknesses. Very good. But a harsh, cruel world. And I saw a little girl, her eyes tightly closed, holding to her breast the old kind world, one that she knew in her heart could not remain, and she was holding it and pleading, never to let her go. That is what I saw. It wasn't really you, what you were doing, I know that. But I saw you and it broke my heart. And I've never forgotten."
Our leaders had carte blanche as to what they might or might not destroy. Their mission was to win the war as quickly as possible; and while they were admirably trained to do just that, their decisions on the fate of certain priceless world heirlooms – in one case, Dresden – were not always judicious. When, late in the war, with the Wehrmacht breaking up on all fronts, our planes were sent to destroy this last major city, I doubt if the question was asked: "How will this tragedy benefit us, and how will that benefit compare with the ill-effects in the long run?"
Dresden, a beautiful city, built in the art spirit, symbol of an admirable heritage, so anti-Nazi that Hitler visited it but twice during his whole reign, food and hospital centre so bitterly needed now – ploughed under and salt strewn in the furrows.
There can be no doubt that the allies fought on the side of right and the Germans and Japanese on the side of wrong. World War Two was fought for near-holy motives. But I stand convinced that the brand of justice in which we dealt, wholesale bombings of civilian populations, was blasphemous. That the enemy did it first has nothing to do with the moral problem. What I saw of our air war, as the European conflict neared an end, had the earmarks of being an irrational war for war’s sake. Soft citizens of the American democracy had learnt to kick a man below the belt and make the bastard scream.
The occupying Russians, when they discovered that we were Americans, embraced us and congratulated us on the complete desolation our planes had wrought. We accepted their congratulations with good grace and proper modesty, but I felt then, as I feel now, that I would have given my life to save Dresden for the world’s generations to come. That is how everyone should feel about every city on earth.
- Kurt Vonnegut, “Wailing Shall Be in All Streets”
I once asked you a simple question: how can we get better without losing who we are?
When we read things like Letter from Birmingham Jail, we’re reminded of the sheer enormity of the problems our parents’ generation began to conquer. We have gotten better. But we’re also reminded that the problems haven’t been solved, and we’ve changed along the way.
Moreover, when we read Slaughterhouse-Five, Never Let Me Go, or even “Just One Thing Missing” (that’s for Finals day), we become painfully aware that the problems we’ll face aren’t getting any simpler. If anything, they’re getting more complicated. War, science, progress, conservation – nothing seems simple.
In “Picking Up Pieces,” I asked you about your snake-skins, the identities you won’t stop forging for years. Now I want you to consider not a snake-skin, but a tapestry – the tapestry of our society, of our world, with so many threads tied together, and with so many others dangling loosely, threatening to unravel the whole thing if someone gives them a good tug.
Interpretations of books shift over the years as society shifts around them, much like the flow of water around a stone in the middle of a river shifts depending on the weather. I submit that both Slaughterhouse-Five and Never Let Me Go will remain relevant, not only in our current day and age, but in the future, because they’re about the tapestry’s dangling threads, about the edges of our way of life that threaten to fray unless someone safeguards them.
By that, I mean that they’re not just about the dangers of our new world. They’re also about remembering to value certain things. For example, both books appear to be about atrocity, but I think it’s more accurate to say they’re about kindness – the responsibilities humans have to their fellow beings, and the connections we can't help but forge.
I’m not sure how future generations will read either one. The books may be static, like the rock in the river, but they ask difficult questions and leave them unsolved. Meanwhile, the world keeps rushing on.
Which aspects of Slaughterhouse-Five and Never Let Me Go will maintain their relevance as we move forward? Which pertain to the problems you wish to solve? And how do you think future generations will read them – as curiosities, prophecies, or something in between?
Please compose your responses in a Word document over the next twenty minutes; you will submit the document to turnitin.com when you have finished. Good luck!
Through his novel Slaughterhouse 5, Kurt Vonnegut displays the negative aspects of war and violence. His main character, Billy Pilgrim, obviously has mental and emotional issues. Both his weeping and “time-traveling” capabilities were the results of his experience as a POW.
The psychological suffering will be the most relevant aspect of Vonnegut’s book. It warns us how the brutality of warfare will linger with us throughout our lifetime.
War is something that I highly doubt will go away in the near future. The generations to come will be born into a progressively congested and misused world. Like now, Slaughterhouse 5, will be read as an antiwar novel. I wish that the book can be used as a tool to end wars, but it can not. The book, and the myriad of other similar books, will only serve as a guide. It can only give us advice and wisdom. But it is up to the readers to choose what they will do with the knowledge gained from the novel.
Human cloning is something that people currently are trying to achieve and I believe that there will be a time where people get their organs from clones. It is likely because of the fact that people seek convenience and pleasure for anything that offers them. We hunt iguanas, conchs, sharks, and snakes to have the most exquisite and tasteful dishes in front of us at dinner times. We fight for front row seats to see men battle each other in rings until blood spills to the floor to achieve what we call an awesome show. We kill all kinds of animals to get a hold of their skin so that we can wear fashionable clothes to work. So it is not a surprise if we turn to cloning to save ourselves. However; what I read in Ishiguro’s book was extremely different from any other book or movie I have come across. In Never Let Me Go, the clones were content with their future. They were okay with the fact that their sole purpose was to save their models. And this is possibly because of how they were brought up. In their early years, the guardians pushed them to live a life. They created beautiful art works to show to the world that they existed and that they did something in their lives besides give up their organs. The system that Ishiguro created is aimed at making the Hailsham kids comfortable with their predestined purposes, and I hope if we do end up cloning ourselves for medical purposes that we treat our clones with respect. After all, we owe our lives to them.
I cannot say how our future generations will see Ishiguro’s book because by then a lot may have changed; however, if by then we are already cloning people I hope that our morals will still be with them and that they see Ishiguro’s book as a possible.
In Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro suggested the importance to preserve the value of human being through cloning. In the book, cloning appears to be the way to produce human like the making of robots. Difference is, people’s organs are taken away from the body, from which the people eventually die. As observers, characters like Kathy and Madame become disgusted when they understood the purpose of cloning and were terrified to loose their identity and value as human when they die. Same thing applies to us, we all concern about becoming someone and die as someone – we are afraid to loose our identity. In such competitive society that we have established, we strive to become better people by getting better education, higher position, and such that make us more unique than others thus to be praised and remembered. As much as this idea opposes the surface idea of cloning that Kazuo Ishiguro presents in Never Let Me Go, both ideas suggest our fear to be humiliated and used as tools of cloning.
We move forward because we ought to be different from each other thus creating competitions. Without competitions, the society will stop advancing because no one craves for better living. If only we have established a Utopia, in which everyone is satisfied with the environment, the government, the science, and such. However, I do not believe that human being would ever be able to establish that because of our ultimate human instincts, such as greed and fear. We are never satisfied with everything; even if we do, we always crave for something better. We can never stop being fearful to the unknown future. When will I die? How will I die? Will I be remembered? Although I will not even be able to care about all that once I die, I still concern about them because I am afraid of the time coming too soon and the pain that I might endure due to the numerous possibilities.
I think they will read them as something in between curiosity and prophecies because curiosity is what leads readers to read the book in order to find out what happens next and prophecy is what leads them to understanding the meaning behind the texts. The way that we are educated and personal perspective also affects how we interpret the book. We believe that cloning is inhumane because in the society that we are living in, we are given freedom to be who we want to be and to do what we want to do. We are allowed to be different; we are allowed to do different things even if it is determined to be wrong to do so. As long as this way keeps passing down, future generations will interpret the book the same way we do.