Life in a Feed Lot
Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five
by Michael E. Bailey
Despite modernity’s centuries-long turn toward the secular, the West has never shaken off the form of the Fall and Restoration as a way of making sense of our broken world. Even the liberation-obsessed 1960s, in which Kurt Vonnegut wrote his most influential and well-received novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, had its own variations on the theme, drawn in vulgarized fashion from the writings of earlier thinkers, most prominently Rousseau (who hated civilization), Marx (who hated capitalism), Freud (who hated religion), and Nietzsche (who hated everything else).
Painted in broad strokes, the 1960s version of the Fall and Restoration goes like this: Man never experienced a fall—he is innocent still—but the abuses of society cause him to do wicked things and to become dysfunctional in his own environment. Reforming society (or dropping out of it) is therefore a necessary step to restoring personal emotional and spiritual well-being.
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Michael E. Bailey is Associate Professor of Government at Berry College in Mount Berry, Georgia. He serves as Deacon at First Presbyterian Church in Rome, Georgia, and is married and has three daughters.
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