God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
Cover of first edition (Hardcover)
|Publisher||Holt, Rinehart and Winston|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback)|
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, or Pearls Before Swine, is a novel written by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., published in 1965. It is the story of Eliot Rosewater, a millionaire who develops a social conscience, abandons New York, and establishes the Rosewater Foundation in Rosewater, Indiana, "where he attempts to dispense unlimited amounts of love and limited sums of money to anyone who will come to his office."
The Rosewater Foundation was founded by United States senator Lister Ames Rosewater of Indiana to help Rosewater descendants avoid paying taxes on the family estate in Rosewater County. It is operated by a large legal firm in New York and provides an annual pension of $3.5 million to Eliot, the senator's son.
Eliot, a World War II veteran and volunteer firefighter who has developed a social conscience, sets out across America visiting various small towns before landing in Rosewater. Eliot's drunkenness, his generous relationship with the poor in Rosewater, and his odd relationship with his wife make him appear eccentric and mentally ill. Norman Mushari, a conniving lawyer, is determined to prove Eliot insane so that he can reroute a portion of the Rosewater fortune to unwitting distant Rosewater cousins in Rhode Island, thus earning a portion for himself.
After experiencing a breakdown, Eliot spends a year in a rest home then returns to Rosewater county. He wills his fortune to fifty-seven children whose mothers have claimed he fathered, and asks that they be fruitful and multiply.
Etymology and Symbolism
The name Eliot Rosewater suggests a yoking together of opposites. "Eliot" connects the young altruist to T.S. Eliot and his depiction of modern life as a spiritual wasteland devoid of love but surfeited with lust. "Rosewater" can be seen as a combination of the names of the liberal Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the conservative Barry Goldwater. "It becomes apparent that Vonnegut was very much aware of the 1964 Election of a President while writing this novel."
"A Sum of Money is the leading character in this tale about people," and "has a sterilizing effect on everyone it touches in the novel." Money is clearly a dehumanizing force for Vonnegut, as is the class system that begat families like the Rosewaters and the Rockefellers. "The American dream turned belly up, turned green, bobbed to the scummy surface of cupidity unlimited, filled with gas, went bang in the noonday sun," Vonnegut remarks.
Norman Mushari Jr., presumed son of Norman Mushari, is found in Vonnegut's novel, Slapstick, where, in similar fashion, he persuades his client to seek restitution from her family for mistreatment. Both Musharis admittedly do it for the large cut of the profits gained by helping people inherit their wealth.
The novel was adapted as a musical in 1979, marking the first collaboration of composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman. It first premiered Off-Broadway at the WPA Theatre and then the Entermedia Theatre in 1978. The cast consisted of Ed VanNuys (Thurmond McAllister), Jonathan Hadary (Norman Mushari), Frederick Coffin (Eliot Rosewater), Janie Sell (Sylvia Rosewater), John Towey, Will Hussung, Alan David -Little, Anne Desalvo, Charles C. Welch, Elizabeth Moore, Peter J. Saputo, Holly Villaire, David Christmas, Pierre Epstein, Judy Sabo, Marianne Sanazaro, and John Scoullar.
In 2003, the musical had a concert as part of CooperArts series at the Cooper Union, produced and curated by Howard Stokar. The music is by Alan Menken, book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, and additional lyrics by Dennis Green. The concert was directed by Peter Flynn, musical directed by Jimmy Roberts. The show starred Jim Walton (Mr. Rosewater), Carolee Carmello (Mrs. Rosewater), David Pittu (Norman Mushari), Kevin Free, Bambi Jones, Kirk McDonald, and Robin Skye.
In 2009, Audible.com produced an audio version of God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, narrated by Eric Michael Summerer, as part of its Modern Vanguard line of audiobooks.
- Schatt, Stanley (1976). Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. University of Houston. ISBN 0-8057-7176-X.
- Vonnegut, Jr., Kurt (1965). God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
- Menken & Ashman's God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater Gets NYC Concert March 7 - Playbill.com