The Life of Kurt Vonnegut

Known for classics such as Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut emerged as a popular novelist during the 1960’s. His work in satire and science-fiction has given Vonnegut a place on our list of greatest literary authors. His work continues to amaze audience members today, and will continue to do so for many years to come.

Let’s take a brief look at the life of the great Kurt Vonnegut…

Kurt Vonnegut was born on November 11th, 1922 in Indianapolis. Kurt was the youngest child to German immigrants who had only been living in the U.S. since the 19th century. Kurt was never taught anything about his heritage because of his parents distaste towards their countries behavior in World War I. The Vonnegut family decided to abandon their German culture leaving Vonnegut without any sense of heritage.

In 1936, Kurt enrolled at Shortridge High School where he became the editor for the school newspaper, The Shortridge Echo. Vonnegut excelled in writing and impressed many of his fellow students and teachers with his unique voice. After his high school graduation, Kurt began attending Cornell University. With dreams of becoming an architect he was urged away from this passion into something more “practical,”so Kurt began studying biochemistry. While studying at Cornell, Vonnegut became a staff writer and the eventually the editor for The Cornell Daily Sun.

In May 1942, Kurt was put on academic probation at Cornell. Poor grades and a poorly timed satirical article cost him his education. After being put on academic probation, Vonnegut decided to drop out in May 1942. During the war, Kurt was eligible for student deferment, but this ended once he’d made the decision to drop out, forcing Kurt to join the army. Vonnegut joined in March 1943 and was sent to North Carolina where he underwent his basic training. A year later, Kurt fought in the Battle of the Bulge after being sent to Europe. While stationed in Dresden, Germany, Vonnegut became a prisoner of war after being captured. During this time, the city had been bombed. Kurt and many other prisoners survived because they were working underground during the attack. This attack devastated the city and Vonnegut witnessed the aftermath.

Kurt soon returned home and began a new life. He married his high school sweet hear and they have three children together. Vonnegut and his wife Jane Marie Cox moved to Chicago where Vonnegut began studying anthropology at the University of Chicago. Vonnegut continued his write and worked at the Chicago City New Bureau during his free time.

In 1952, Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel Player Piano was published by Scribner’s. This novel did fairly well and even received a good review in the New York Times. After this novel, Vonnegut was then considered a science fiction author. Kurt continued writing, selling his short stories to a wide variety of magazines. Vonnegut’s work slowly began to take off. In 1963 he published one of his most famous novels, Cat’s Cradle. 

As his work failed to gain the popularity he desired, in 1969 Kurt’s writing career finally took off. Slaughter-House Five was publishes that year and audiences loved it. Especially younger college students, the novel earned it’s place on The New York Times Best Seller List. Vonnegut continued to write, creating novels such as Breakfast of Champions and Jailbird. Despite his demons, Kurt attempted to pursue his literary dream.

On April 11th, 2007 Kurt Vonnegut died at the age of 84. The author suffered various injuries from a fall a couple weeks earlier.

Kurt Vonnegut lived a long and troubled life, but produced many notable works during his time. His work has inspired so many and will continue to do so overtime.