I want to like Kurt Vonnegut, I really do. Slaughterhouse-Five is unquestionably brilliant. I am a fan of satire and science fiction, two genres that this book falls squarely into. Instead, I found this book extremely frustrating. Vonnegut’s take on love, faith and mortality is witty and subversive. If I was a white guy of a certain age, this book would probably inspire me to look more closely at my own political and spiritual beliefs. But as a woman, I hated it.
There are only five women in the book. There are lots of males, but I didn’t bother to count them. Vonnegut gave them plenty to say so I don’t have to. the first woman is tall and ugly and uses her legacy to purchase a handsome husband for herself. The second woman is a dumpy midwesterner and is a vehicle for Vonnegut to lambast traditional conservative American values. Two other women are background characters-one is a wife and one is a dead mother, but neither really has anything to do but be placeholder’s for male character development.
And then there is Mona. Mona Aamons Monzano. Jonah, the protagonist, calls her the most beautiful woman alive. She is all his sexual fantasies come to life. Lust for Mona drives most of the main character’s decisions and he sees her as a sexpot. The only problem is that Mona isn’t interested in him. Sure she marries him, but that is because she has been instructed to by the founder of her faith. Then bad things happen and Jonah possibly (probably) sexually assaults her. But it’s ok because it’s written as a comical episode! Mona’s only act of free will is to take herself out of the story shortly after the hilarious scene where she turns down sex with her “husband” only to have him climb into her bed for some sweaty grappling.
I am sure that there are Vonnegut fans out there that love this book and would argue that the male characters are written as derisively as the female characters, but I don’t care. This book was written in 1963, and it is an excellent example of why the feminist movement of the 1970s was so necessary. Vonnegut should have hung out with his contemporary, Gene Roddenberry, a little more. Uhura and Nurse Chapel would have beat the living snot out of Jonah and his idiot friends.