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Beginning Applied to Kurt Vonnegut

In David Lodge’s chapter on the beginning, he states that “WHEN DOES A NOVEL BEGIN? The question is almost as difficult to answer as the question, when does the human embryo become a person? Certainly the creation of a novel rarely begins with the penning or typing of its first words. Most writers do some preliminary work, if it is only in their heads.”  In Adam by Kurt Vonnegut, there must have been much preliminary work done for the creation of this story.  He must have thought about the background of the Knechtman in order to write this story.  The development of this character is vital to the story yet he doesn’t immediately start the story with it.

“When does the beginning of a novel end, is another difficult question to answer. Is it the first paragraph, the first few pages, or the first chapter? However, one defines it, the beginning of a novel is a threshold, separating the real world we inhabit from the world the novelist has imagined. It should therefore, as the phrase goes, “draw us in”.  In “Where I Live” by Kurt Vonnegut.  The whole story seems like a long introduction.  It is very hard to answer what is the end of the beginning of this story.  The whole story describes setting without an actual plot.  This makes it difficult for Vonnegut to “draw us in”.  This story I not that different than the real world because of its realism and the threshold separating us from the real world is very subtle.

 “We are not yet familiar with the author’s tone of voice, range of vocabulary, syntactic habits. We read a book slowly and hesitantly, at first. We have a lot of new information to absorb and remember, such as the characters’ names, their relationships of affinity and consanguinity, the contextual details of time and place, without which the story cannot be followed.”  In a few of Vonnegut’s stories does he start off with the setting or character description.  He does this in “Where I Live”, Tom Edison’s Shaggy Dog” (“Two old men sat on a park bench one morning in the sunshine of Tampa, Florida”), “Long Walk to Forever” (“He was a shy person, even with Catherine”), and “Adam” (“It was midnight in a Chicago lying hospital.”)

Comparison to Twain:

I the beginnings of Mark Twain’s stories, he goes directly into them without mentioning setting and naming characters like in the good and bad little boy.  Vonnegut usually does mention setting and gives details about characters like in “Adam”.  Mark Twain’s stories “draw you in” more than Vonnegut’s because Vonnegut’s stories are more slow paced, with a lot of character description, and have less interesting plots especially in the beginning.  Both authors did do much preliminary work before writing their stories.


1 Comment

  1. hawks389 says:

    The start of a story can be confusing and detection of a beginning could be noticed after reading the story carefully. I agree with the author on the method at which Twain starts his stories as he goes quickly into starting them and telling his reader everything. Vonnegut gives more description and the beginning is noticeable to an extent.

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