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Anton Kalmysh

AP English Language
Mr. Manahan
1 November 2014
Player Piano
Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano was first published in 1952 and it is his first
literary masterpiece. It examines a dystopian society run by machines in Vonnegut’s
signature style— satirical, deadly serious but at the same time, wildly humorous.
In Ilium, New York, people have no potential to be anything beyond a body
with a letter and a number attached to it. For example Doctor Edward Francis
Finnerty, a rebellious outsider with a brilliant mind and an old friend of the
protagonist Paul Proteus, is an EC-002, the second highest engineer rank; in this
world his identity ends with that number. Machines dictate human worth and create
a system where autonomous will is meaningless and individuality is restrained. In
Vonnegut’s fictitious universe, machines are in absolute control over one’s fate and
status. However, these are not machines with willpower, nor cyborgs; they are just
computers that make calculations and base decisions on numerical values. For
instance, Doctor Bud Calhoun is a genius at designing various gadgets, but
computers reject him for a design job because him aptitude test score is
unsatisfactory for this profession. The system that was designed to stimulate
progress in reality does the opposite by depriving people from any opportunity of
self-realization –enslaving humankind.
It is people like Bud Calhoun and Doctor Berringer, one of the managers at
Ilium works with a powerful family linage whose position is a product of deeply
rooted nepotism, who reveal the flaws within this “ideal” system. In theory the

Only by accepting the transient nature of existence can one live authentically. The machines do it for them. One of the biggest problems with the system is that there is no ways to correct this error. As mechanization continues and machines replace more and more people. Crossing the bridge between the two is like crossing between two worlds. The city is divided into two parts: Homestead. give haircuts and dispose soda. Machines have taken over so much that housewives collapse in tears because a home no longer needs their caretaking.machines are suppose to find a job that perfectly suits the each individual based purely on skill and knowledge rather than one’s social standing. a place for the elite engineers and managers. The majority of the novel is set in Ilium. New York. but primarily. There are machines in every house. a living place for the lower class. The old order is skeptical of making any alterations to the system. in every corner of the city. machines deprive the people of meaningful existence and sense of purpose. Vonnegut offers the reader yet another pragmatic outlook on humanity. . after all this system was designed to be perfect. the most important element of the setting is the machines themselves. however this is not always the case. However. systems uncontrollably degrade. They provide public services and make safety announcements. the elite class gradually shrinks and the lower class becomes bigger. He is a son of George Proteus. and the Ilium Works. The system without any avenue for change only feeds the rebellious anti-machine groups such as Ghost Shirt Society full of rejected and misplaced engineers. In this “useless” world lives the apathetic protagonist Paul Proteus who throughout the story searches for the meaningful life. Therefore. Like any living organism.

who are trying to overthrow the machines. an air of uneasiness and uncertainty surrounding him. he is not yet ready to follow the rebellious step of his old friend Francis Finnerty. Proteus’ disillusionment leads him to a decision to resign him post. Proteus is later drugged and kidnapped by the rebel led by Finnerty. dissatisfaction that he never quite understands and that leads to eccentric behavior. Anita’s reaction does not meet his expectations. At first Proteus’s rise to even greater prominence seems certain. he is put into position of a leader. Doctor Edward Francis Finnerty. Throughout the novel. however. Nor wanting to risk his job security. he purchases and old farm where he and Anita could start over and renew their love and mutual commitment. Deciding that Paul’s name would lend dignity to the revolt. fed up with the system and rebellious by natures. But before he does that. He is eventually captured by . his superiors request him to infiltrate the rebels thus his resignation is perceived as a part of the scheme to destroy the rebel forces. Paul is pushed to side either with the giant corporate entity that runs the economy and employs him as head of the Ilium works or else to side with the Ghost Shirt Society revels. What he seeks first is meaning in his personal life and his marriage. quit his well-respected job. There is. She cannot fathom how one can give up the luxuries of current life and prefer primitive existence on a farm. Anita Proteus constantly pushes him to climb higher up the social ladder and uses sexuality as a tool of persuasion. His ambitious wife. Yet. Inspired by the humble lives of farmers. joins the Ghost Shirt Society and seems to do everything he can to bring down him friend Paul with him.a man who stands behind this “great” industrialization. On the other side.

the authorities and tried for treason. The word is incredibly similar in sound to the world “ipecac. the spirit of insurgence remains undaunted.” a substance that makes people vomit. he reveals his personal convictions about the subject matter. and even though it becomes clear that the revolt will be suppressed. In Player Piano Vonnegut’s language selection is superb. The rebels manage to free him. With these little hints buried all through the book. At his trial he finally openly embraces his belief that humankind has been enslaved by its own invention. He uses detailed descriptions but doesn’t overwhelm with language and he has a tint of dark humor present all throughout. Rip tide by vance joy . Every word is used for a reason such as name he chose for the main computer in Ilium that calculates all the essential factors of economy and makes decisions about production: EPICAC.