Kurt Vonneguts War Experiences and its Effects on the Barnhouse Effect
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Kurt Vonneguts War Experiences and its Effects on the Barnhouse Effect
Kurt Vonnegut's War Experiences how it contributes to my understanding of the "Barnhouse Effect"
Kurt Vonnegut’s war experiences had a great impact on his life, which greatly contributes to the readers understanding of the "Barnhouse Effect." His war experiences are reflected quite vividly through his writing of the "Barnhouse Effect." This short story reflects "the human horrors during war, and the de-humanization of modern men and women, and the loss of humane values in a society dedicated to technological progress." (Modern Stories, p. 408)
The Barnhouse Effect is a name that is created by the press. The press came up with this name from Professor Arthur Barnhouse’s character in the "Barnhouse Effect." They call the professor’s phenomenon the barnhouse effect.
Professor Barnhouse, had come up with a different name for his phenomenon. He called it the "Dynamopsychian." "Dynamopsychian means force, and the power of the mind. In the story, the narrator explains, in more detail, how Professor Barnhouse relates his phenomenon to war. "As a weapon, then, Dynamopsychism has an impressive advantage over bacteria and atomic bombs, beyond the fact that it cost nothing to use: it enables the professor to single out critical individuals and objects instead of slaughtering whole populations in the process of maintaining international equilibrium." (p. 410). According to this quotation, Dynamopsychism is a very powerful weapon that only professor Barnhouse had. The professor had thoughts that would flash through his mind before they actually happened. His mind is a powerful weapon, which no one else possessed. In the story, Barnhouse says, "the same thought train had flashed through his mind just before he threw the dice." (p. 411). It was that thought train which aligned the professor’s brain cells into what had become the most powerful weapon on Earth. It began with a simple mental exercise during an army crap game, which soon escalates into a worldwide threat. At least, that’s what the FBI thinks when they raid the Professor’s office and put him under investigation. Professor Barnhouse is asked to use his new power as the ultimate national defense weapon. War hungry generals, Russian spies and the FBI get into the act as Professor Barnhouse shows what the real power of his mind actually is.
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Before the Professor could rub two formulas together, he found himself the center of an experiment where he had to single-handedly sink a battleship with both the U.S. Army and Russians looking on.
Moreover, the horrors of war are greatly expressed in Vonnegut’s writings. The bombing of Dresden had a profound impact on the life and written work of Kurt Vonnegut. Word war II shaped many of Kurt Vonnegut’s philosophies that appear in his novels, especially Slaughterhouse Five. What made the Dresden bombing even more horrible to Vonnegut was that as a prisoner, he was ironically protected from the bombs and fire. "Planes from his country did the bombing, and he was the perpetrator, observer and target all at the same time. (Goldsmith ix)."
Vonnegut’s views on human nature were also greatly affected by war. "There is shock and outrage over the havoc and destruction that man is capable of wreaking in the name of what he labels a worthy cause." (Schatt 84). He believes that war strips away individuality; it turns people into machines that merely obey orders and kill, which the military of course thinks is wonderful. He believed that there is considerable room for change. Vonnegut states "And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, and how much was mine to keep". (Vanderewrken p. 414). This example states how much potential there is. A humanist at heart, Vonnegut believed that man is basically good and can overcome his violent and cruel streak inside.
In addition, there is another philosophy that is created from Vonnegut’s experiences from war. This experience is a caution against unchecked science and technology. As world war II ended, the people of the world saw devestating effects that had science created. For the first time in history, possibly since Ancient Greece, the value of science was being questioned. People were not so sure anymore that science was always such a good thing, and Vonnegut is one of the leading questioners. He states, "I am the enemy of all technological progress that threatens mankind." (Nuwer p.39). "As a humanitarian, he repeatedly demonstrates the human aptitude for cruelty, and shows how technology magnifies this cruelty beyond control." (Beetz 3398). According to these examples, Vonnegut is not content to excuse bombing. He told his sons "they are not under any circumstances to take part in massacres, and that news of massacre machinery." (Schall pg.17). These statements illustrate Vonnegut’s views on the potential evil impact that can be brought on by the union of man and machine.
Vonnegut’s war experiences has a great contribution in his writing, "The Barnhouse Effect." In the Barnhouse Effect, his writing is greatly influenced by his experiences. Learning about Vonnegut’s war experiences, allows a greater understanding of the Barnhouse Effect. Vonnegut is an author with a unique perspective on life. He can see things more vividly in a humane manner in his interpretation of the world around him. The core of this story examines the corruption of humanity. His experiences helped to shape what Vonnegut writes in the Barnhouse Effect. In this story, the brilliant professor seeks to restore a measure of sanity. Vonneguts stories often include at least one character who is aware and sane in his or her surrounding madness, just like the professor in the Barnhouse Effect.
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