Kurt Vonnegut's "Bluebeard": A Soldier's Tribute to Women
"My mother was shrewd about the United States, as my father was not. She had figured out that the most pervasive American disease was loneliness, and that even people at the top often suffered from it, and that they could be surprisingly responsive to attractive strangers who were friendly.” ― Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Bluebeard
Those who appreciate thought-provoking literature and poignant art that deals with the human condition should read Kurt Vonnegut’s 1987 novel Bluebeard.
The fictional work is presented as the diary and impromptu autobiography of Rabo Karabekian — a well-off but lonely artist in his senior years, whose quiet life is uprooted by Mrs. Circe Berman, a bossy, smart, and sexually provocative woman. Though the novel's plot significantly differs from the original “Bluebeard,” a story that's by far more gruesome than Vonnegut’s version, the main characters in both works have secrets they are guarding from the outside world — secrets that reveal something crucial about the men who keep them. Vonnegut even directly addresses the legend of Bluebeard in his novel.
As the plot unfolds, we learn that Rabo Karabekian was born to Armenian parents in San Ignacio, California, and dreamt of becoming an artist from an early age. With his mother’s help, he acquired an apprenticeship under one of the most successful and celebrated illustrators of the day, where he met a woman who changes and shapes his current understanding and appreciation of love, strength, survival, and art. But, we are also exposed to Karabekian’s real-time thoughts and reflections as they unfold, especially those pertaining to the impulsive, stunning, and skillfully manipulative Mrs. Berman, who seems to unlock a part of Karabekian he did not know could be unlocked.
“It's always men against women, with the men only pretending to fight among themselves.” ― Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Bluebeard
Forever changed by his personal experiences in WWII, Kurt Vonnegut seems to be impressed by men’s capacity and capability to commit unspeakable acts of evil. In Bluebeard, not only does he expose the cruelty of men toward one another he also shows how their cruelty in turn affects women. It’s a novel written by a feminist who may have never purposefully intended to sound like one. And yet, the strength and courage of women, through the eyes of an appreciative and experienced man, is beautifully and plainly presented by one of the most astute scholars of the human condition: it's through the love and nurturing of women that Rabo Karabekian and Kurt Vonnegut finally find peace.