Literature Study GuidesBluebeardChapters 30 31 Summary

Bluebeard | Study Guide

Kurt Vonnegut

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Bluebeard | Chapters 30–31 | Summary



Chapter 30

Rabo says Marilee told him about her relationship with the count. She had enjoyed his company, but when he died she didn't miss him. She had found her true love in the Italian people and in Italy, where she finally felt at home. Rabo says he felt he hadn't lived in comparison with Marilee, instead he "had accumulated anecdotes." He recalls that he and Marilee had laughed at the thought that a cigarette advertisement of three cowboys, painted by Dan Gregory was cut up by Pablo Picasso to make a collage of a cat. He says she knew it was something only two of them "could fully appreciate."

Rabo recalls that he told Marilee some anecdotes from his life, including how he saw the valley of people at the end of World War II. He also tells her about his abstract expressionist paintings which he claims were "about nothing but themselves." Marilee's response was that she thought all artwork should be saying "the end"—an end to the time in which men oppress and harm the world and those in it. Rabo remembers that she ordered ten paintings of his choosing on the spot, and that was how her art collection began. She later joked in a letter that the paintings failed to depict nothing, because she could see chaos in every one. Rabo returns briefly to the present to mention that Slazinger has "voluntarily committed himself to the psychiatric ward" of a veteran's hospital.

Chapter 31

Rabo says he regrets his failures as a husband, father, and artist. He remembers that when he got back from Italy he told Dorothy he had good news. She hoped that it was a reprieve from moving to the house he had bought in the country, or that he'd gotten a job. He told her about his sales of paintings to Marilee, but she thought they were worthless and bewailed his lack of conventional employment. She didn't like his artist friends or his paintings. Rabo, on the other hand, remembers enjoying painting and spending time with his friends at a tavern in the city with great fondness. He and his artist friends all had suits made by Isadore Finkelstein, also a painter and war veteran, to improve their image. Rabo tells about the night a man came into the tavern and asked a number of personal questions about Terry Kitchen, who answered them all, telling of his privileged background and motivation to become a painter. Kitchen called painting his "Mount Everest." Rabo says Kitchen later said he thought the man was his father.


Readers see in Chapter 30 that Marilee accomplishes more than either Dan Gregory or Rabo. Rabo feels he has done little more than "accumulate anecdotes." Marilee has something he says he never expected to have, a home. In Italy, she discovered a place she felt at home and a community of people who really loved and welcomed her. This also allowed her to provide a home for women who have suffered at the hands of men. In the end, Dan Gregory, Marilee's abuser, who Marilee sarcastically calls "our lord and master," controls her no longer. He doesn't control anything anymore, not even the fate of his work, a fact Marilee and Rabo revel in. The idea that his representational art is mutilated and rearranged into the style he so deplored by a modern artist like Pablo Picasso would have horrified Gregory. In Chapter 31, by contrasting Marilee's success and happiness with Gregory's failures and Rabo's unhappiness, the author emphasizes Marilee's strength, resourcefulness, and resiliency, and that of the gender she champions.

Marilee's opinion is that art does have a purpose. All art should now declare the end of men's destruction of the world and those that live in it. This declaration foreshadows and helps readers interpret Rabo's secret painting in the barn She considers having images of atrocities painted in her rotunda, such as the bombing of Hiroshima, but worries that it would just "egg men on to be even more destructive and cruel." She would rather put art on her walls that won't encourage more violence. Rabo's explanation that abstract expressionist art is about nothing but itself fulfills this desire, so Marilee begins to collect it, although she jokes that even it contains something: chaos. Perhaps art cannot help but communicate something. According to past chapters, there is meaning behind Rabo's work, even if he is the only one who knows what it is.

In Chapter 31 readers find out more about why Rabo's first marriage ended. Dorothy resents Rabo's refusal to get a steady job, a position she finds childish and irresponsible. He avoids being at home, staying with Terry Kitchen in their rented studio much of the time. Rabo jokes that he made Dorothy so unhappy she "developed a sense of humor" as she quips that his art collection isn't even worth three dollars. Readers also learn more about Kitchen's history in Chapter 31. Born into privilege, things came easily to him, but he wanted a challenge. Becoming a painter was that challenge, what he called his "Mount Everest." He pursued this goal, at the price of losing his parent's support. Rabo uses foreshadowing to suggest that Kitchen would achieve his goal once he found the right tool, the paint sprayer. Both Rabo and Kitchen's lives at this point in time are defined by their need to create art, despite the cost to themselves or other people in their lives.

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