Irony In Kurt Vonnegut's Mother Night

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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,

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