God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater

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God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
GodBlessYouMrRosewater(Vonnegut).jpg
Cover of first edition (Hardcover)
AuthorKurt Vonnegut
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
GenrePostmodernismpolitical satire
PublisherHolt, Rinehart and Winston
Publication date
1965
Media typePrint (Hardcover & Paperback)
Pages218

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, or Pearls Before Swine, is a novel written by Kurt Vonnegut, published in 1965. It is the story of Eliot Rosewater, a millionaire who develops a social conscience, abandons New York City, 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."[1]

Plot summary[edit]

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 to visit various small towns before he lands in Rosewater. Eliot does his best to help the people in the town, having an office where he gets phone calls from people in the town needing his help with various things, much to the displeasure of his father. Meanwhile, on the other branch of the Rosewater family living in Rhode Island, a man named Fred Rosewater, a depressed life insurance salesman contemplating suicide every day, is visited by a lawyer named Norman Mushari who says he can give Fred the Rosewater fortune, by proving Eliot is clinically insane, thus causing control of the fortune to pass to Eliot's closest oldest male relative, Fred.

After his father advises him of the scheme, Eliot suffers a nervous breakdown and is confined to a mental institution for a year. He suffers a bout of amnesia, recovers, and is informed of the present situation, including the fact that he is set to appear the following day in court to defend himself at a proceeding intended to prove his insanity. He learns that the people of Rosewater now hate him and many of them now falsely claim Eliot fathered their children and are asking for money. Eliot suddenly devises a way out of his predicament: he gives Fred $100,000, and orders his lawyer to draw up legal papers acknowledging that he is the father of all of his alleged children in Rosewater, thereby creating a county full of heirs with a greater claim on the fortune than Fred. This will foil Mushari's plot and ensure that the Rosewater family fortune will be distributed among the people of Rosewater.

Etymology and symbolism[edit]

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 US presidential election while writing this novel."[1]

"A Sum of Money is the leading character in this tale about people,"[2] and "has a sterilizing effect on everyone it touches in the novel."[1] 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.[2]

Intertextuality[edit]

Kilgore Trout, Vonnegut's foil and fictional alter-ego, appears for the first time in this novel. One of his stories is about aliens from Tralfamadore, which plays a role in many Vonnegut novels.

Eliot Rosewater can be found in Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions.

Norman Mushari Jr., the 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.

At one point Norman Mushari Jr. visits the mansion of the Rumfoords in Newport. The Rumfoords figure in many of Vonnegut's short stories and novels, notably in The Sirens of Titan. Lance and Cynthia Rumfoord are both mentioned in Slaughterhouse-Five.

Diana Moon Glampers shares the name of the Handicapper General in Vonnegut's story "Harrison Bergeron" but no other characteristics.

Noyes Finnerty, the center of the immortal 1933 Noah's Rosewater Memorial High School Basketball Team, shares similar anarchistic and anti-social tendencies to Ed Finnerty of Player Piano.

Andre Le Fevre’s pornographic photograph of sex with a pony is mentioned in Slaughterhouse-Five.

Musical adaptation[edit]

In 1979, the novel was adapted into a stage musical with a book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken, and additional lyrics by Dennis Green. The musical opened at Off-Broadway's Entermedia Theatre on October 14, 1979, and ran for 49 performances. The cast included Frederick Coffin (Eliot Rosewater), Janie Sell (Sylvia Rosewater), and Jonathan Hadary (Norman Mushari).

In July 2016, the New York City Centers Encores! Off-Center concert did a revival of the show.[3] The cast album of this revival was released on July 28, 2017, by Ghostlight Records.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Schatt, Stanley (1976). Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. University of Houston. ISBN 0-8057-7176-X.
  2. ^ a b Vonnegut, Jr., Kurt (1965). God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  3. ^ Viagas, Robert (November 16, 2016). "Encores! Off-Center Production of God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater Is Getting a Cast Album". Playbill. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  4. ^ McPhee, Ryan (July 7, 2017). "Release Date Set for Kurt Vonnegut's God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater Album, Featuring Santino Fontana". Playbill. Retrieved May 22, 2018.