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Religion and Science as Panaceas

This is a very important theme in the book. Both science and religion, as Vonnegut portrays them, ensured the destruction of the earth and mankind as a whole. Science brought ice-nine and religion brought in bokononism. The pairing was catastrophic. Personally, I believe that both science and religion can be useful tools when used correctly and both are able to benefit. The problem is knowing when to stop.

Salvation in Lies

Although religion had a hand in the destruction of the earth, it was a way for the people of San Lorenzo to escape the horrible monotony their lives would have without it. Vonnegut portrays this religion as the savior of mankind.

The Danger of Technological Advancement

Vonnegut is a humanist. He is almost always anti-scientific progress. He showed that some people like Felix Hoenikker are uncontrollable and sooner or later they create something like ice-nine that can destroy everything. I disagree that science is “all bad.” In reality, it has caused much more good than destruction. Ultimately it could destroy us, or make us prosper.


Graham Locke

Lit. of the Strange and Mysterious

Ms. Stillwell


Bokononism: Completely Useless?

            The great and wise Bokonon once said, “All human pursuits are useless.” He is also the father of a religion. This being the case, isn’t he just saying that even his own religion is useless? Then what of government, or all other forms of religion and economic and political systems? The following paragraphs will show the effects of such apathy towards these aspects of life.

            First, let us look at the irony of what Bokonon stated. Being the father of a religion entitles you to preach and believe in what you say. What makes him different is that he makes it a point to let everyone know that what he says is a lie. Then why do people still follow him? Because it makes them happy. Without this aspect in their lives, they have no happiness. They know that their lives aren’t wonderful, and Bokononism is a means of escape. Whatever squalor these people had before the rise of Bokononism would ultimately lead to the demise of their civilization if it were to stop existing. This would be the same of all systems that people have come to adopt over time.

            Now, if there was widespread apathy towards our own government, things would fall into chaos. Nothing would get done and everyone sooner or later would probably die of disease or starvation. Everyone would be lazy. Government, or at least the pursuit of having some sort of organizational system for our country, is an important aspect of how we are built as humans. As a people, we need that type of order and structure even if it just to keep our population alive.

            Religion is not something one can normally talk about freely. Being an agnostic, one can look at many forms of religion without the beliefs of another clouding their judgment. What seems to be the case is that religion causes alienation, discrimination, as well as wars and destruction. Even when the belief structure of that religion is against all of those things, people find a way to bend the rules to get what they want. Though religion can cause all of this, it can serve an important purpose. When used correctly, religion gives people hope when they need it, just like Bokononism. Where people go wrong is creating these large belief structures out of metaphors they believe are truths. But sadly, many people need this driving force because without it they are unable to live their lives. It serves its purpose for those that have built their lives around those beliefs.

                 Bokonon is constantly quoted for his lies. Lies that give people a reason to live. Though government can become corrupt, and religion can wage a genocidal war, there will always be the gray area. Within this gray area are the times where government, religion, and other beliefs are needed though they may not be good or bad. They serve their purpose and keep mankind thriving, learning, and forever expanding.

CC Questions

  • You are one of the Hoenikker children. Your father’s invention has been used in war. Millions have died. How do you feel?

If I was one of the Hoenikkier children, I’m sure i would have been just as dumb to my fathers destruction as they were. With my current mindset, yes I would have some contempt for the man but he wasn’t a bad person. He just did what he was told. It was the government that decided to drop the bomb and kill people. Not my father.

Breed was Dr. Hoenikker’s supervisor. He said Dr. Hoenikker was a force of nature that no one could control
How did Dr. Breed feel the day the bomb was dropped?

Dr. Breed went to the local bar and drank an “End of World Delight.” He couldn’t really handle what was going on so he decided to forget it by getting completely smashed. He felt responsible, as any normal person would.

  • Lionel Boyd Johnson starts his own religion. If you were to start your own religion with yourself as a god, what would your religion be like?

My religion would require all people to not descriminate music genres, and it would enforce the strict policy of not worshiping anything. Basically it would be Agnosticism, but with a heavy musical influence. All people must listen to music at all times, unless they don’t want to. They must attempt to learn how to play a musical instrument, and once a week we all come together for a big jam session. You are immediately excommunicated from the religion if you start attending normal church services. This policy is not enforced, because we don’t care.

  • Papa invites everyone to a special ceremony the following day. The celebration commemorates San Lorenzo’s 100 Martyrs to Democracy. Does there seem something strange about a dictatorship celebrating democracy?

A dictatorship has no democracy whatsoever. That is one gigantic economic contradiction. But, to defend the mindset of a dictator, they aren’t celebrating democracy but they are honoring those who died fighting for America’s right to have a democracy. Though nobody voted for “Papa”, and nobody has control over anything, they still defend democracy. Hm… That seems to remind me of some countries I know of…

Eight Question Response

How does the title Kindred tell the story of Dana? How does it relate to the other characters? To our society as a whole?

This word has many meanings within the story. First, we can break up the word and start with Kin. Kin refers to ones family or relatives. The whole point of her traveling back in time was to ensure the survival of her family. Then there is Dred. There is always the constant fear of death for a black person in the Antebellum south. Such is the reason to why she is pulled back into 1970. When Dana feels that her life is in danger, she is transported back to her own time. Now that bring us to Kindred. She refers to her husband as a “Kindred spirit,” which basically means that they are in the same preverbial boat. They understand eachother because they know where the other has been and accept it. When she comes to the south, slaves treat her as if she were a kindred spirit to them because they assume she is like them, and everyone need someone to lean on in that time period to at least stay sane.

Why do you think the author found it necessary to use a modern narrator to tell the story instead of having it all set in the past?

Making the main character from a time we can relate to more creates more shock to the audience. By this I mean that we understand the 1970’s. Our parents lived then. It wasn’t too dramatically different then how we live our lives now (minus the technology). But take that person, who has only known that life and nothing else and drop them into this culture that is the complete opposite of how you live your life normally everyday, not only tells us more about ourselves as individuals, but allows us to mentally put ourselves in her situation. How would YOU react if you had to live in the south? I wouldn’t be able to survive really. Even though I am white and had the advantage back then, I am not the racist type. I would constantly be helping black people and helping them get north. Or I would have just stayed north and tried to stay away from it because it repulses me too much. Either way I wouldn’t know how to act back then.

What are your own reactions to Rufus and his actions as he grows into a man?

My reactions to Rufus as he grows into a man almost make me wish he could stay a child. He doesn’t understand the points Dana is trying to make sometimes because he is so used to being the son of a slave owner. Though he has improved. He never lays a hand on a slave, except with Alice but that was a crime of passion, and never intends to sell or disrespect anyone. Of course some of these things are done out of ignorance, but such can be expected from a person of his nature.

How do you think Dana’s future in the present will be affected by her experiences in the past? How about her relationship with Kevin?

I think she will begin to become more greatful for her life in 1976. Though, that wasn’t really the point of her going there in the first place, she will begin to see her world differently. Her husband, who has dealt with living there for 5 years, will have to re-assimilate to the culture he was born into. Their relationship will be fine, because they love eachother immensly. That I am certain of. But they both will be much more aware of racism between them and everyone else around them.

What feelings are elicited in the different characters by Dana’s presence and her relationship to Rufus?

Most people find it very odd and alarming how comfortable they are with eachother, and especially how informal. Rufus’s mother hated Dana for being so close to him, when she herself couldn’t get any closer to him. Tom Weylin sees Dana as a relief after awhile. Someone who actually has compassion for Rufus, and knew how to take care of him without smothering him with motherly love. Some people are even uncomfortable around her because she is so much more educated than everyone else.

What are the benefits of learning about our individual and collective past—even if the process is difficult or painful?

Learning about our past allows us to grow and improve upon what we already accept. However difficult or painful anything is always reflects the reward in the end. Because her trials are so difficult it quickly allows Dana to grow and learn about herself as an individual as well as learn about the real antebellum south. These things that she learns can shed light on so many things today and raise topics that we normally would never have thought twice to bring up. It makes us better people.

How would the novel have worked if the narration had been written from a different character’s point of view?

Lets take for example Kevin. If the story was written from his point of view we would have seen his confusion, his anger, and his fear for what is happening to his wife. It would also go into to detail of the time Kevin spent away from Dana in the past, which would be very interesting to learn about. It would also be interesting to hear the story from Rufus’s point of view but the story would jump a lot and you wouldn’t have a complete thought transtition between the events in his life that cause Dana to show up.

What role does Rufus’s mother have in the formation of his character, and is Rufus strongly influenced by her?

Without Rufus’s mother, he would have had no compassion at all. Yes, although his mother was almost as bad to the slaves as her husband was (and in some cases even worse,) she cared for her son deeply. This rubbed off on Rufus, and with the help of Dana, allowed him to feel compassion towards those that needed it. Other than that, I believe that Rufus had some contempt for his mother. Nobody likes to be completely smothered with one emotion. Also, I think he noticed how awful she treated the slaves which made him want to be more fair with them where nobody else wouldn’t.

Prompt response!

  • Explain why it is ironic that Dana refers to her place of employment as a slave market. If she survives the time travelling and referrs to work, how might her views have changed?
  • This statement is very ironic, due to the fact that now she actually IS doing slave work. Instead of having an easy job that pays little, now, she has many difficult time-consuming tasks that must be done every day for no money and barely any food. Whatever she thought was horrible was taken to the nth degree. She now lives as a slave. When she gets back, however, I believe she will look at her life as blessed and do any type of work for money, realizing that she really does have everything that the slaves didn’t.

    – How is Dana both more and less equipped than Alice and her mother to survive in the past?

    Dana has the knowledge of the past without any of the experience. She has many advantages that allow her to stay ahead that most slaves dreamed of having one day. But without the experience it makes it difficult for her to survive in that era. Alice and her mother on the other hand have had nothing handed to them. They have battled prejudice beyond any point that anyone should have to deal with, and yet they are surviving in that hell. They don’t share the knowledge that Dana has of reading and writing and other luxuries at that time, but they are equipped to survive.

  • On page 59, Dana says, referring to Kevin, “I wished he were back home. In this place, he was probably better protection for me than free papers would have been, but I didn’t want him here. I didn’t want this place to touch him except through me.” Explain Dana’s reasoning, whether you agree or disagree, and tell how you can relate to her feelings.
  • She is more than justified in thinking that Kevin should not have come with her, but she is also true that he would be the best form of protection for her. Better than free papers, and way better than trying to just sneak around on her own. I do agree that she should be scared though. If in fact that the only way Kevin is able to get back is through her then she has every right to be scared of seperation. And, if they do get seperated that way, how long would Kevin stay in the south? What would happen to him? What values and survival tactics would rub off on him? It is a very frightening thought to lose the person you love, and at the same time, have them completely change before your very eyes.

  • In what ways does time travelling lead Dana to experiences the likes of which she has never had and act in ways that she would never believe herself capable of?
  • Dana has to defend herself from white males who wish to rape her and other such immediate dangers. In the 70’s there wasn’t as much danger to be afraid of so she couldn’t even begin to prepare or fathom the type of experiences she would face. Once confronted with these dangers she learns what type of person you need to survive, and she has no qualms of living that way if it means protecting her family and her own life in the process.

  • When Dana returns home the second time, what precautions are taken in case she time travels again?  What additional precaustions might you have taken?
  • This question is actually kind-of unfair. If I was her, living NOW in 2010, I would have gone online instantly and learned everything about they salve era. Wikipedia to the rescue!!! But sadly, I wouldn’t have that luxury in the 1970’s. So, what I would have done was immediately search the house for ANYTHING that could have been useful. And I mean anything. This would have allowed me to be prepared in any situation. Also, I would have made Kevin go to the library earlier to get more literature on slavery to be as prepared as possible.

  • Give a personal response to the following quote from page 56:
  •                               ” My aunt and uncle said I could write in my spare time if I wanted to… Meanwhile, for the real future, I was to take something sensible in school if I expected them to support me.”

    This seems to be the case with most people who have a dream to be a writer or a musician. Since they aren’t really valuable trades, unless you are lucky, parents would like to have their children pursue a career in which they can be successful. Obviously, her parents wouldn’t be able to afford supporting her on her own if she didn’t have a stable job and chose to write. Even though she ended up living that life anyway, but able to support herself, she had been able to follow what she loves doing.

  • Read the following definition of suspension of disbelief and then re-read pages 61-65. In these pages, how is Dana asking Rufus to supend his disbelief? Would you have done things the same or differently if you were Dana? How would you have reacted if you were Rufus?
  • Dana was asking Rufus to negate whatever he may know that contradicts what she is said to him so that it was able to be believed. It is very important that she did this because without Rufus being on board and able to comprehend the reason for Dana being there it would be that much more difficult to keep himself, Dana, Kevin, and their ancestors safe.

    Kindred Response

    Taking everything into account, this is a very odd story. Great! But odd. I have never read a story before that starts out so graphic that it actually startled me. Also I have never read a book that uses the “N word” so freely, which was an adjustment for my mind.  My initial response to this novel was one of curiosity. I was very tempted to read on, and now I find it hard to put the book down. The author uses very descriptive imagery to convey scenes within the book, and it makes it easy to follow along.

    With the basic plot of the story being a woman from the 1970’s who randomly starts to travel back into the slave ages, I am already able to identify the troubles she is going to face from prior knowledge. I keep wondering how this story will unfold and how she will be able to survive in that era. Which explains how she doesn’t feel safe. First of all, she is randomly time traveling and it is hard to bring a thought like that out in words, and second of all, she is traveling to a time where black people were persecuted and beaten and descriminated against for no real reason other than the fact that they were considered less than human. She isn’t safe and she knows this. Us as readers have a hint of the danger from the prologue where they go over a scene of her losing her arm which you later find out is due to this weird time travel scenerio. Though, the actual moment of her losing her arm is at the very end of the story.

    My first impression of this story is that it has some parallels to “Back to the Future”. These parallels are :

    1. When she travels in time, its to a time where she has relatives.

    2. She realizes that she has to make sure her great great grandparents end up being married or else causing a paradox where she no longer exists.

    She also finds that she is tied to this child named Rufus, who turns out to be her great great Grandfather. Every time this child has a near death experience, she travels through time to save him and make sure he is alive to marry Alice Greenwood, the main character’s great great Grandmother. I don’t have the strength or the mental capacity to deal with a situation like this. If I was randomly plucked out of my life, plopped into a very dangerous and unstable time period and was told that I had to make sure my ancestors got together so that everyone in our family, including myself, could live, I would have a panic attack and probably end up going insane!

    I am very intrigued by this plot and wish to read on to find out how this story unfolds. I wish to know exactly how she loses her arm as well as how she plans to keep Rufus alive and get Alice and him together.


    Hello, my name is Graham.

    I play guitar. Music practically consumes most of my life. The other sliver of usable time goes to whatever really.

    I can also beatbox pretty well, so expect many random noises to fly out of my mouth. It’s not there to annoy or interrupt, just merely to entertain. But basically it has become a tick and I can’t control doing it.

    I also have A LOT of opinions on things, and I love to add “my two cents,” to things. If you allow me to add my opinion to discussions in class (when I have one) we will all get along pretty great!

    So yup… thats kinda me. More or less.

    Here is what I know about the genres…

    Mystery: Known as the genre of entertainment. All genres are there to entertain, but the core element here is that the story is there to engage the reader and have an outside perspective on the events taking place. The protagonist can change depending on the sub-genre. They can range from somebody with NO experience at all to a hard boiled detective to just your average police officer.

    Science Fiction: Closely tied to Fantasy, it deals more with an alternate universe to ours that has changes to what we know as reality, either subtle or dramatic. All science fiction has some sort of “moral” or commentary on the way things are going today.

    Horror: Meant to entertain the reader and scare them. Tied to mystery because the audience has a superior perpective to the action taking place.

    Fantasy: (my favorite genre) Most if not all fantasy novels take place in an alternate universe in the “middle ages”. Very closely tied in to Science Fiction, the only real difference is the strong elements of Magic. without magic its not fantasy.

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