Document Type


Date of Award



College of Liberal Arts and Behavioral Sciences (COLABS)

Degree Name

MA in English


Kurt Vonnegut on the Daily Show in 2005 (on the issue of his disappointment in humanity): "Well, I think we are terrible animals. And I think our planet's immune system is trying to get rid of us. And should." It is a common occurrence in works by Kurt Vonnegut for the societies built by man to crumble under the weight of our own folly only to be rebuilt and redesigned by the survivors. Due to the fact that these new societies are typically built from the remnants of those that came before, they often face the same challenges and feature the same shortcomings as those that birthed it. Thusly, Vonnegut often ponders if it is really possible achieve a fresh start for humanity or is history doomed to constantly repeat itself. The research proposed will demonstrate that while Kurt Vonnegut will often offer the reader hope for a new society, the fact remains that it is just a scaled down version of the one before and susceptible to all the same pitfalls, such as in Deadeye Dick or Slapstick. Therefore, to truly wipe the slate clean, humanity in its entirety, or at least its current state, would likely have to be eliminated altogether, as happens in Galapagos and Cat's Cradle. Following the theme of destruction of the old leading to the creation of the new, the 2 research will attempt to decipher if it is possible to rebuild a society from the remnants of the old, or if the old indeed needs to be wiped away completely on even a base, evolutionary level in order to truly give a societal "Tabula Rasa". The thesis will examine the fictional works by Kurt Vonnegut mentioned above while referring to critical essays and reactions to Vonnegut's apocalyptic leanings, as well as pertinent philosophical insights and Vonnegut's own commentaries on humanity, as represented in both his works and without.