Literature Study GuidesBluebeardChapters 24 25 Summary

Bluebeard | Study Guide

Kurt Vonnegut

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Bluebeard | Chapters 24–25 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 24

Rabo takes Slazinger upstairs to the room he requests, thinking that Circe's reaction is much stranger and scarier than Slazinger's sudden reappearance in a straitjacket. Rabo discovers the counter in Circe's bathroom covered in prescription pill bottles. He realizes she is a "pill freak," and thinks it explains a lot about her behavior. Rabo says that Slazinger has been in and out of "laughing academies" ever since his injury in the war. Slazinger has great talent as a writer, but he also has recurrent mental health problems. Rabo listens to him rave about Polly Madison books and the theory of revolution he wants to write. He tells Slazinger that what is in the barn is "the emptiest and yet the fullest of all human messages ... Goodbye."

The stock market crashes on Labor Day, and Rabo is glad of one result. The cook, Allison White, can no longer afford to leave. Allison is also pregnant. Slazinger, now living with Rabo, is "high as a kite" and writing his book about revolution. Circe says she is almost finished writing her new book, however, which means she may soon leave. Rabo shares the topic of an article he read in The New York Times which speculates that men and women were once separate races and that the race of men conquered the race of women. He says "cancel my subscription!"

Chapter 25

Rabo recalls that when World War II started, the agency he was working for closed, and he enlisted. He remembers that he was placed under General Whitehall, who wanted Rabo to paint his portrait. Rabo says he cunningly used his time with the general to suggest that artists in the army be used to create camouflage to protect against aerial surveillance by the enemy. The general created a unit just as Rabo suggested and put him in charge of it.

Rabo says that a "white flash" led to him losing his eye and becoming a prisoner of war. He describes how, at the end of the war, the German guards led him and the other prisoners to the edge of a great valley. The valley was filled with all manner of people who had experienced the war. He calls the sight "unforgettable."

Analysis

In Chapter 24, the author develops the character of Circe further by revealing a possible weakness. Up until this point, Circe has seemed so bold, brash, and carefree. In showing readers her issues with prescription drugs and Rabo's conviction that they account for her odd personality and unpredictable behavior, readers learn she isn't as strong as she makes herself out to be. The strange behaviors that had led Rabo to perceive Circe as a force to be reckoned with were now explained by drug addiction. With "the scales dropped from my eyes," Rabo begins to see Circe as more complex, damaged even. This new understanding of his housemate is an important step toward the cultivation of a true friendship between the two. Like Rabo, Circe is wounded and hiding.

In Chapter 24 the author also rather humorously addresses the theme of men versus women. The article in The New York Times is about the evolution of men and women from two separate races, and it cites the clitoris as a vestige penis from a now conquered, subjugated race. Rabo's emphasis on the word "incontrovertible" shows just how ridiculous he finds this supposed absolute proof. He exclaims hilariously "cancel my subscription!" Rabo clearly finds the idea that women are just men without penises absurd. Vonnegut continues to develop this idea of men as conquerors and women as subjected to their domination throughout the novel.

Chapter 25 gives readers their first glimpses of Rabo's military work during the war. The general to which he was assigned had requested Rabo because he was going to retire soon and needed someone to paint his portrait. Rabo slyly manipulated the general into creating a new unit of artists to use their skills to create camouflage to help elude aerial photography and surveillance. Not only did Rabo get what he wanted, the general put him charge of the men. Readers also learn that something happened during the war, what the author calls a "white flash," that led to Rabo's being taken prisoner. The fact that Rabo, who struggles to face the pain and loss in his life, created camouflage during the war, which is meant to conceal objects from the enemy's sight is an apt metaphor for his psychological situation. It also proves that even in this soulless work, there is some soul, or evidence of the humanity Rabo tries so hard to hide.

This chapter also offers readers a description of the valley Rabo saw when he was released as a prisoner of war, an event to which the novel returns at its climax. The valley is full of other people who have experienced the horrors of war firsthand or have been otherwise affected by it, including concentration camp survivors, soldiers, and others. Rabo's experience of being left at the rim of large green valley filled with these ten thousand people on V-E Day has its source in Vonnegut's own life. He was in the military during World War II, was taken prisoner very shortly into his tour, and was released by his captors at the end of the war to witness the same green valley full of people. As the novel's writer, Vonnegut is embedded in his own artwork.

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