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, 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."
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 mental institution where he is then visited by his father, lawyer and Kilgore Trout, his favorite science fiction author. He wills his fortune to fifty-seven children whom their 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.
Kilgore Trout, Vonnegut's foil and fictional alter-ego, appears for the first time in this novel.
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.
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.
Diana Moon Glampers shares the name of the Handicapper General in Vonnegut's story "Harrison Bergeron" but no other characteristics.
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).