Tuesday, September 3, 2013

God Bless You Mr. Rosewater Book Review

(written in 1965)

God Bless You Mr. Rosewater is a hilarious, dark humor that uses satire to help show the issues with America’s capitalism-driven society.

(What this book is really about)

The book stars a powerfully rich family known as the Rosewaters, who have created a Foundation in order to evade taxes.  All was fine and well with the foundation until a lawyer, known as Mushari, tried to steal the money through the corrupt court system.  His plan was to try to prove the heir, Eliot Rosewater, had gone insane and transfer the money to a distant relative, thus earning himself a huge commission.

Our Protagonist (aka someone who is a little off their rocker)

Eliot Rosewater’s best case for insanity involves an incident in World War 2 where he accidentally stabs an innocent 14-year-old boy.  When Eliot returns home, he isn't quite the same, and ends up spending all his time and money trying to help the ‘good for nothing poor’.  Despite having 3 million dollars to his name, he spends his entire day living in a small apartment, drinking and answering distressed phone calls from the poverty-stricken-people of Rosewater, Indiana. 

Vonnegut's Message

God Bless You Mr. Rosewater delivers its powerful themes through dark humor and satire.  The two main themes involve the issues with Capitalism, and the growing divide in the class system.

The Class Struggle

The class divide is greatly exaggerated in this novel.  It shows Noah Rosewater (Eliot's ancestor) taking advantage of the poor in order to gain a considerable sum of money.  The money is then passed from generation-to-generation, and its members proceed to do virtually nothing but hoard their considerable sum of money.  The working class, on the other hand, works an honest living and lives in poverty and depression.  

The divide in the classes sets the stage for the tremendous problem of how to get people on the same page.  The book thrives in this element, using dark humor and satire to point out that the only real people are the rich, and that there isn't really a problem with the way things are at all.  The theme is a powerful one, but falls short of its potential due Vonnegut only showing the socialist side in a positive light. 

Socialism Vs. Capitalism

It is in this dystopian setting that Eliot attempts to right the growing issue by distributing his considerable wealth to the poor.  The fantasy element of the book comes into play here, as Richard the Lionhearted soul is actually residing within Eliot.  Again, the dark humor thrives here as people accuse Eliot of being insane

The Message

The main argument made by Vonnegut is that a society based completely on capitalism is bound to run into major class divides and strife.  The idea is that the issue can be fixed by adding a touch of morality and socialism, in order to ensure the classes don’t spread too far apart.  

God Bless You Mr. Rosewater is a wonderfully entertaining book with powerful themes, and is limited only by its narrow perspective.


PS – I tried to make this more of a quick and dirty review of the themes and story, rather than analyzing the entire thing.  There is quite a bit more that happens in this book, but many of the smaller story lines are just little jabs of satire and humor that don’t end up tying back up to the main story line.

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