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"Adam" short story presentation
Transcript of "Adam" short story presentation
Brenna Lill Reaction Statements 1.) Mankind is inherently selfish 3.) Perseverence in life always pays off. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was born on November 11th,
1922, and he died on April 11th, 2007. * Vonnegut was known as one of the most influential American writers of the 20th century. He is known for his unique, simplistic writing styles that both entertain the audience and instill deeper considerations about both the world and society in the minds of the readers. * * Vonnegut also incorporated many styles and concepts within his works such as satire, black comedy, and science fiction. * Some of Kurt Vonnegut's most acknowledged works include his first short story, "Report on the Bamhouse Effect," as well as novels such as The Sirens of Titan and Breakfast of Champions. * Kurt's parents were third-generation German-Americans. * Kurt Vonnegut was the youngest of three children, and he said that he owed his love of the sciences to his father, a man who insisted on the importance of technological learning for the future. * * * * Kurt went to Cornell University to study biochemistry, but he dropped out in his third year to join the army. Vonnegut was captured and held as a prisoner of war in Germany during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944,but he managed to survive and escape; his experiences from World War II helped influence his moral themes in his future writings. After his return from the army, Kurt attended the University of Chicago as a graduate student in anthropology, but he also worked for the City News Bureau of Chicago, launching his writing career. * Vonnegut raised seven children, but only one was his biological child, (three children were from his first marriage, and he adopted the other three from his sister before she died of cancer). Kurt's biological son, Mark Vonnegut, became a pediatrician and wrote the book the Eden Express: A Memoir of Insanity. * Pessimistic outlooks on life become prevalent in many of Vonnegut's great works, but he strongly believed in the value of kindness. * "Vonnegut described himself variously as a skeptic, freethinker, humanist, Unitarian Universalist, agnostic, and aethiest." * Despite the fact that he enjoyed a good public viewing, Kurt Vonnegut has maintained a reputation as a bit of an outsider. "Adam" Short Story Presentation Setting * "Adam" is set in Chicago during the early 1950s, shortly after the end of the Holocaust. Historical Background Major events of the early 1950s: * * * * * 1950: - First organ transplant
- Korean War begins 1951: - Colored T.V. is introduced 1952: - Car seat belts introduced
- Polio vaccine created 1953: - Jospeh Stalin dies 1954: - First atomic submarine launched
- Report informs citizens that
cigarettes cause cancer The Holocaust: * 1955: - Rosa Parks refuses to give up her
seat on a bus
- Disneyland opens * * The Holocaust is known as the period
of time, (late 30's - late 40's), when the Nazi regime persecuted and murdered approximately six million Jews. The Nazis believed themselves to be
"racially superior" who needed to
weed out imperfections; they saw
these imperfections in anyone who
was different than themselves (this
includes the Jews, Socialists,
Communists, Gypsies, etc.) * During the early years of the Nazi
persecutions, the National Socialist
government created concentration
camps for all those who did not fit
into the Nazis' idea of perfection. - Prisoners had to face horrible
conditions such as starvation,
hypothermia, disease outbreaks,
and more. - Many victims of the Nazi concentration
camps died, but a select few, such as
Heinz and Avchen Knechtmann, survived
the horrifying event. Relative Passages: Themes 1) People are too consumed with their own lives
to be interested in the affairs of others.
2) Despite what has happened in the past, there
is always hope for the future.
3) Though the miracle of life is precious, it
is often taken for granted. * * * * Heinz considers his past while awaiting
news of his wife and newborn child:
"He had died a little as each member of
his family had been led away and killed
by the Nazis, until only him, at the age
of ten, had life and the name Knechtmann
shared a soul. He and his wife, Avchen,
had grown up behind barbed wire" (1124;
20-23). Heinz relives the memories of his first child
that had died in the concentration camps:
"The last time he had waited, he had waited
on a straw tick in a displaced-persons camp
in Germany. The child, Karl Knechtmann, named
after Heinz's father, had died, and with it,
once more, had died the name of one of the
finest cellists ever to have lived" (1126;
27-30). The results of Avchen's enprisonment during
her childhood are still affecting her present
physical health, especially her pregnancy:
"'Sousa--I got your wife confused with Mrs.
Sousa... Sorry. Your wife's the one with
'Malnutrition as a child,'" (1126-27; 65-68). (Avchen:) "'They couldn't kill us, could
(Avchen:) 'And here we are, alive as we
can be,'" (1130;236-40). In the final scene between Heinz and
his wife, they share each other's enthusiasm
for being alive, for surviving their past: 1.) "'They don't care,' said
Heinz, 'They're all too busy
busy, busy to notice life, to
feel anything about it. A
baby is born.' He shrugged.
'What could be duller?'"
(1129; 200-01). 2.) "'Little Peter, little Kroll,'he said softly, '
little Friedrich - and there's Helga in you, too. Little spark of Knechtmann, you little treasure house. Everything is saved in you'" (1127; 96-98). 3.) "'The baby, Heinz -'she opened her dark eyes wide. 'It's the most wonderful thing that ever happened, isn't it?'" (1130; 240-42). Relations to Modernism and Post-Modernism * Modernism - A major cause of modernism = wars
* The Holocaust, occurring around
the same time as World War II,
had a major effect on the the main
characters, Heinz and Avchen
(childhood, relation to current events
during the story's timeframe, etc.)
- Another major cause of modernism = "empowerment of minority groups
(search for cultural identity)"
* Heinz and Avchen have escaped their
harsh past in Germany and have come to
Chicago in the hopes of creating
happier lives together with their new
baby. Despite their enthusiasm and optimism, however, many people with whom they come into contact with neither acknowledge nor appreciate their resilience. Furthermore, Heinz especially struggles with his nationality: * Post-Modernism "Back home in his small apartment, at two in the morning, Heinz talked to himself, to the empty bassinet, and to the bed. He talked in German, a language he had sworn never to use again" (1129; 197-99).
- A main factor of modernism is "the wistful desire to return to pre-war life"
* Although never stated, the reader can infer that both Avchen and Heinz would wish that the Holocaust had never happened. The reader also is not given any of the characters' background before they lived in the concentration camps; however, one can most likely assume that those who survived the Holocaust would want their lives returned to how they were before the horrific events had occurred. - Despite the story taking place in the timeframe of the Post-Modernism era, there are no obvious factors pertaining to the movement within the story. Main and Side Characters Main Characters * Heinz and Avchen Knechtmann
- The main themes of the story are displayed through their
interactions with other side characters.
- The main plot of the story revolves around their newborn baby.
- The reader can assume that Avchen individually remains static
since she is not present for the major duration of the story.
- It is debatable whether or not Heinz is static or dynamic - he
remains optimistic for most of the tale but there is a short time
where he seems to have given up hope (Page 1130, lines 211-17).
However, when he sees his wife again, he remembers what it is he's
living for - in this way, he can be viewed as dynamic. Side Characters * Mr. Sousa
- Mr. Sousa plays the role of the bitter, jealous man. He awaits the arrival of his wife's new child, just as Heinz awaits his. However, when Mr. Sousa learns of having another girl, now a total of seven girls, he complains about the gender rather than celebrating the birth of his child.
- Mr. Sousa does not progress in this story, and thus, he can be considered a static character.
* Dr. Powers and the nurses
- Dr. Powers and the nurses are only present at the beginning of the story, but they do interact with the main characters. Dr. Powers is oblivious to Heinz's obvious delight at having a healthy child, and he sleepily shrugs of Heinz's earnest gratitude. When Heinz is led to see his new child, the nurses neither look at nor speak to Heinz - they simply ignore him and move about their business.
- Since the behaviors of the doctor and nurses do not change in the story, they can be considered static characters. How Attitudes and Behaviors
Relate to Theme * The main plotline of "Adam" occurs
through Heinz's failed attempts at
sharing his joy with others.
- Furthermore, the insensitive or uninterested attitudes of the previously mentioned static side characters relate to our first and third themes:
1.) People are too consumed with their own lives to be interested in the affairs of others.
3.)Though the miracle of life is precious, it is often taken for granted.
-Similarly, Heinz and Avchen's optimism and resiliency relate to our second theme:
2.) Despite what has happened in the past, there is always hope for the future. * The bartender
- the bartender plays much the same role as Mr. Sousa - they both whine and complain about their many children rather than appreciate the fact that their children are healthy and well.
- The bartender, like Mr. Sousa, is static.
* Harry and his girlfriend
- the last interaction Heinz has with side characters in "Adam" is when he tells his coworker, Harry, of the news of the birth of his child. (Page 1129, 174-196). Their condescending manner and uncaring attitudes gives the reader the impression that they are insensitive and inconsiderate of others feelings. Since they are only present in one scene, they can be considered static as well. Writer's Crafting * Kurt Vonnegut subtly reveals and describes his characters' personalities through four methods of characterization:
1.) "Description of the character's physical appearance"
Ex: "His face was long and big-nosed and thin-lipped, but was so overcast with good-humored humility as to be beautiful" (1124;17-18).
2.) "Presentation of the character's own speech, thoughts, or feelings"
Ex: "'Boy, girl,' said Heinz, 'it's all the same, just as long as it lives. Over there in the hospital, they're too close to it to see the wonder of it. A miracle over and over again - the world made new'" (1128;133-35).
3.) "The speech, thoughts, or feelings of other characters in response to the character"
Ex: "The girl looked on in perplexity, as though asking why they should be accosted at such an odd hour by such an odd person. Heinz avoided her slightly derisive eyes" (1129; 178-79).
4.) "The narrator's own comments about the character"
Ex: "When he was led into the ward where Avchen slept behind white screens, he felt only what he had always felt in her presence--love and aching awe and gratitude for her" (1130; 220-23). Characterization Literary Devices * Metaphor
Ex: "'I know, I know, I know,' said Mr. Sousa, a sullen gorilla, plainly impatient with having a tiresome and
familiar routine explained to him" (1124;4-5).
Ex: "The man he left behind, all alone now
was Heinz Knechtmann, a presser in a dry-cleaning pot..." (1124 15-16).
Ex: When discussing the main characters' past, he alludes to the Holocaust.
Ex: "When the numbness of weary wishing..." (1126; 31).
Ex: "He spoke the name with an exaggerated Old World pronunciation, like a foppish footman announcing the arrival of nobility..." (1126; 47-49).
Ex: "... jauntily back to his bench, but with his reddened neck betraying how foolish he felt" (1129; 194-95).
Ex: "...the Knechtmann women were all lovely as angels..." (1126; 38-39). Short Story Criticisms * Critics of Vonnegut's works comment that his writings lack depth in the sense of technique. They say that his prior career as a journalist has led him to write short, curt stories rather than longer, more mentally-stimulating ones. Furthermore, critics say that his main characters always reflect some part of Vonnegut himself, or they possess some traits that can be compared to the author. Following this point further, critics also say that Vonnegut combines personal experiences with realistic fiction to creat new literature. The End! :)