ENG 590: “Bluebeard”

At the beginning of the semester, my professor broke the news that there would be three presentations throughout the semester (one for each student in the class), and we could choose one of three books to do our presentations on. One of my classmates picked hers right away, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, because it was her favorite book. There were two choices remaining: Bluebeard or Jailbird. I read the descriptions of both, and figured that Bluebeard would be the better one to present on. It doesn’t hurt that it happens to be my boyfriend’s favorite book, either (or at least his favorite Vonnegut novel).

Bluebeard was easy to follow, much easier to follow than Slaughterhouse-Five, to be sure. Rabo Karabekian, the main character and narrator of the novel, makes sure his readers know when he is skipping through time, with markers such as “Let’s go back to,” and “Now,” etc. The novel is set up as an autobiography, although the narrator will tell you it’s more of a diary than anything else, and that turns out to be true. There are details that wouldn’t work in an autobiography, but make sense in a diary. This is already different than Slaughterhouse-Five, because it’s told in the first-person, not with an all-knowing narrator.

The subject matter is interesting, and deals with a washed-up artist who works on his magnum opus, which he keeps hidden in a potato barn on his property. He swears he’ll never show it to anyone, at least not until he dies. The hints you get towards what the magnum opus is are artfully arranged throughout the novel, and by the time you get to the end, you’re just as stunned as Karabekian’s audience in the novel is. I’d love to see that moment illustrated, honestly.

If you’re a fan of fairy tales, you’ll probably recognize the title of this novel. Bluebeard. It shares its name with a fairy tale that shows a monstrous bridegroom who systematically kills all his wives due to them failing his test: “Don’t go into that one room, but you can go into every other one in the castle.” Of course, none of the women pay attention, and they end up going into the room. Depending on the version of the story you read, the wives either drop an egg in the bloody vat in the room (which is full of the corpses of his previous wives) or they drop a key, and the bloodstains never come off, and Bluebeard adds their body to the pile. There are several different endings to this story, and I’m not going to go through each of them, but I will say that Vonnegut’s tale has a much happier ending, indeed.

Why was this one of my top two from this semester? I enjoyed the way it was written and I thoroughly enjoyed the subject matter. It deals with the abstractionist art and the artists who make it, and what happens when you become a washed-up has-been. I will say it’s a happier ending than Slaughterhouse-Five, and a happier novel overall.

I’ll let you decide for yourself what you think of this novel, but I hope you pick it up. It’s more accessible than a lot of other Vonnegut novels, and a more complete story. Have you read it? Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments!

And as always, keep reading.

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Word Counts:

Blog: 12,664/10,000 || Thesis: 1,819/10,000

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