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When is a Novel not a Novel: When It is Used to Teach Political Science
Unformatted Document Text:  clearly represents the system. Although early in the novel Finnerty discovers that he “couldn’t face anything about the system any more” (34), for a lesson in bureaucratic loyalty, Vonnegut turns to tragicomedy. During Paul’s first visit across the river, we are introduced to Reverend Lasher’s son. After doing poorly on the NGCT and being faced with the choice between the Army or Reeks and Wrecks, Lasher tells Paul that “[m]y boy’s all set. [H]e hanged himself this morning” (76). Sad? Yes, certainly. However, Lasher doesn’t have a son. He was just setting up Paul Proteus. Similarly, Vonnegut was setting up the reader for an episode that evolves later in the novel. Unlike Lasher’s fictitious son, Dr. Fred Garth had a son named Brud. Initially, the text points the reader toward a reflection formal training and testing. Dr. Garth explains the difficulties involved in parenting to the childless Paul. “It’s a trial, though, watching your kids grow up, wondering if they’ve got what it takes, seeing ‘em just about killing themselves before the General Classification Tests, then waiting for the grades” (166). Unfortunately, after two attempts, Brud fails and “cracked up.” The real lesson here, at least for Dr. Garth, is about loyalty. It should be remembered from above that for Garth, “there’s never been any question that he was one of us.” Nevertheless, after seeing what the system did to his son, Garth commits “treeslaughter” by stripping the bark of the Oak at the Meadows (266). Kroner referred to the Oak as “our tree, our symbol of strong roots, trunk, and branches, or symbol of courage, integrity, perseverance, beauty” (172). More than any other representation, the Oak was the symbol of the system and Garth’s destruction of that symbol reflects Vonnegut’s critique of blind loyalty. Once again, Vonnegut illuminates Weber. The duality found in Weber’s own writings on bureaucracy comes alive when seen from the perspective of Player Piano.

Authors: Connor, George.
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clearly represents the system. Although early in the novel Finnerty discovers that he
“couldn’t face anything about the system any more” (34), for a lesson in bureaucratic
loyalty, Vonnegut turns to tragicomedy. During Paul’s first visit across the river, we are
introduced to Reverend Lasher’s son. After doing poorly on the NGCT and being faced
with the choice between the Army or Reeks and Wrecks, Lasher tells Paul that “[m]y
boy’s all set. [H]e hanged himself this morning” (76). Sad? Yes, certainly. However,
Lasher doesn’t have a son. He was just setting up Paul Proteus. Similarly, Vonnegut was
setting up the reader for an episode that evolves later in the novel. Unlike Lasher’s
fictitious son, Dr. Fred Garth had a son named Brud. Initially, the text points the reader
toward a reflection formal training and testing. Dr. Garth explains the difficulties
involved in parenting to the childless Paul. “It’s a trial, though, watching your kids grow
up, wondering if they’ve got what it takes, seeing ‘em just about killing themselves
before the General Classification Tests, then waiting for the grades” (166).
Unfortunately, after two attempts, Brud fails and “cracked up.” The real lesson here, at
least for Dr. Garth, is about loyalty. It should be remembered from above that for Garth,
“there’s never been any question that he was one of us.” Nevertheless, after seeing what
the system did to his son, Garth commits “treeslaughter” by stripping the bark of the Oak
at the Meadows (266). Kroner referred to the Oak as “our tree, our symbol of strong
roots, trunk, and branches, or symbol of courage, integrity, perseverance, beauty” (172).
More than any other representation, the Oak was the symbol of the system and Garth’s
destruction of that symbol reflects Vonnegut’s critique of blind loyalty.
Once again, Vonnegut illuminates Weber. The duality found in Weber’s own
writings on bureaucracy comes alive when seen from the perspective of Player Piano.


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