Irony In Kurt Vonnegut's Mother Night

Improved Essays
While Howard W. Campbell Jr. cleverly leaks information helping America, the pro-Nazi audience emphasizes his few, ridiculous emotional appeals and amplifies the meanings of some pictures to fit their ideology in Kurt Vonnegut's Mother Night. With the public's ability to popularize certain ideas, their response outweighs the author's intent in terms of transmission. His broadcasts openly pass valuable information to the Americans, but the listeners only hold on to what seems anti-Semitic. When Campbell tries to solidify his appearance as a Nazi to his German superiors, he draws absurd, overdone figures that anti-Semitic people think represent Jewish people accurately. His wife's dad explains the importance of Campbell's reinforcing role for …show more content…
He describes the foolishness of his depiction of a Jew that controlled the world's money and supported communism: "I overdrew it, with an effect that would have been ludicrous anywhere but in Germany or Jones' basement and I drew it far more amateurishly than I can really draw" (Vonnegut 154). This target for a gun range appears "ludicrous" to anyone who can think logically without hate. As he draws it more "amateurishly," the audience increasingly twists the satire to fit their false prejudices. In order to remain closely aligned with these anti-Semitic views, Campbell's audience ignores any facts. When he describes his theory for their loathing of Jewish people, Campbell blatantly disses them to their face: "Krapptauer's sort of truth would probably be with mankind forever, as long as there were men and women around who listened to their hearts instead of their minds" (Vonnegut 179). The sad truth remains that these unfounded opinions will not go away but instead last "forever." However, the audience fails to realize his criticism of their group. Because they make decisions with their "hearts," they produce an unstable foundation that simple objectivity cannot fix due to their ignorance. The biased audience either assumes the validity of Campbell's exaggerations or thinks of his insults as positives. As a result, …show more content…
His German father-in-law, Werner Noth, explains that Campbell's propaganda bears a similar value to the orders of the top commanders: "I realized that almost all the ideas that I hold now, that make me unashamed of anything I may have felt or done as a Nazi, came not from Hitler, not from Goebbels, not from Himmler—but from you" (Vonnegut 99). The figureheads of Nazism provide an image of strength, but their impression to their citizens produces nothing without a spread of ideology. Although Campbell provided America with valuable war strategy information, his "ideas" allow Germans to believe in their sanity and power their emotional zeal. Because Campbell's propaganda entangles with his public identity, many people only know him as the eloquent Nazi. He admits to his mistaken social identity, which he calls the moral of the whole book in the introduction: "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be" (Vonnegut v). Although he only pretends to follow anti-Semitic ideology, he does not follow his conscience and ethics overtly enough. Only three other people understand Campbell's purpose with the broadcasts, and the rest of the world identifies Campbell as one of the public voices of Nazism. While Campbell never thinks of himself as a man who commits great crimes against the human race,

Related Documents

  • Superior Essays

    Hitler said things about himself that made him look amazing, but in the end, they were not true. The country was falling, so when the people heard even the simplest thing about helping the country, they were all for it. Hitler said things like these which made him look like a great leader, when in reality he wasn’t. For instance, in the speech from Hitler, it says, “I myself am a front-line solider and I know how grave a thing war is. I wanted to spare the German people such an evil.”(Hitler 78) This illustrates that Hitler is trying to convince the people of Germany that he knows how the people feel and wants the best for them when in reality he wants the best for himself.…

    • 1237 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Decent Essays

    It all depended on your location, and which side you wanted to take. When the Third Reich was gaining all of their supporters they were able to have a public body to help publicize their beliefs. The Nazis were able to convince the German people that the economic depression in World War I was not the result of governmental failure, but was instead the fault of immigrants, communists, and the other “inferiors” who were weakening the country. They…

    • 719 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Great Essays

    Since Hitler seemed like key to help with all the problems in Germany, everyone believed his extreme ideas and followed them. And so if this “supreme form of human” was stated to be true by Hitler, then there must be others less supreme then the ideal human. These less supreme men gained a name as the Untermenschen, or racially inferior. Hitler gave this racially inferior position to Jews and the Slavic peoples, notably the Czechs, Poles, and Russians. In Mein Kampf, Hitler states: "...it [Nazi philosophy] by no means believes in an equality of races, but along with their difference it…

    • 2085 Words
    • 9 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Improved Essays

    He is following the orders of the Germans and Americans. Campbell’s propaganda supported the Germans, but also had hidden messages that helped the Americans. Campbell is just a pawn to both sides and he does not completely understand what he is broadcasting. He only understands the surface meaning of the propaganda, that they are political statements used to convince Germans and other people to trust the Jewish or other minorities. Campbell’s voice keeps him alive during the war because he…

    • 2000 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    In his rise to power as the Chancellor of Germany, he repeatedly expressed these views of superiority, and he used the discontent Germans felt after losing World War I as one of the chief pillars for his rise to power. In his view, the only way to truly make Germany great again was to eliminate the “root” of all of the problems: the Jews who, according to him, brought down the great German society. Hitler’s profound ability to inspire others through his words and to make “purification” seem like such a smart idea made it easier for the German people to band behind him ("Why Did Hitler Hate…

    • 826 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    At the same time, anti-Semitism was also prevailing in Europe. In order to win the control of the minds of the masses, Hitler selected to create Jewish people as the “common enemy” to Germans and a great symbol that would lead Germans to defeat it, Hitler himself. Burke says "Irrational it is, but it is carried out under the slogan of reason” (199). Hitler used impressive words and rhetoric to tell the masses that all ideas about anti-Semitism were reasonable. Since the fragile Germans who had just suffered from the pain of WWI and the collateral economical crisis, were so desperate in searching for a strong hope that can unite and prosper the whole nation again.…

    • 1711 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    He appointed Joseph Goebbels as the Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda to guarantee that their skepticism was converted to certainty. Goebbels’ tasks included ensuring that nobody could find any information that damaged the Nazi Regime’s reputation and persuading as many people as he could to be in favor of Hitler’s agenda. All of the changes made by Goebbels were for the persuasion of the Germans into believing in Hitler and the Nazi Regime he led. Goebbels once said, “The essence of propaganda consists in winning people over to an idea so sincerely, so vitally, that in the end they succumb to it utterly and can never escape from it,” (History Learning Site, paragraph 12). He understood that at first many would dismiss the idea of eliminating Jews as crazy; however, he worked towards convincing every single German that their leader was almighty and protectant of his people and that the Jewish community only weighed down the potential of Germany.…

    • 1796 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Indifference to other people's struggles is a particularly difficult issue to combat in mankind. Wiesel shows the indifferent nature of mankind when describing his account of Moishe the Beadle. Moishe is a citizen of Sighet and is captured and manages to escape from Nazis. Moishe returns to Sighet to warn of the massacre of foreign Jews he witnessed but no one listens to him; some even go as far as to accuse him of insanity (Wiesel, 7). This tragic ability mankind has to ignore the struggles other people experience is the root of racial prejudice and the root of the indifference to racial…

    • 753 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    He started small, but Hitler noticed his potential and he became his main resource when he needed propaganda. Goebbels and Hitler wanted to create a sense of fear towards the German, but make them feel like Hitler was their only choice. People called Goebbels “The Propaganda Man”, from his aptitude to win over the brains of many Germans. During World War II, Goebbels ' skill with propaganda was on full display: He turned battlefield losses into victories and raised morale with each speaking engagement (Joseph Goebbels). Hitler made himself known, Goebbels gladly helped.…

    • 1516 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Great Essays

    To explain, the “Bill Posters” actually handles the situation and takes care of the demeaning poster. However, Woody Allen’s short story plainly demonstrates how Hitler was weak and insecure, but, as represented by the Barber who continued working for Hitler because he “made a down payment on some furniture” (Allen), no one actually took a stand. By having the barber state, he knew how abominable Hitler was but didn’t do anything about it further exemplifies these different pieces of comedy. In other words, The Shmeed Memoirs and “Bill Posters” both do show authority figures true colors. However, these memoirs only comment on the fact that each of us has the potential to step in but as seen in Hitler’s case, choose not to undertake.…

    • 1243 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Great Essays