Existentialism In Kurt Vonnegut's Sirens Of Titan

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Kurt Vonnegut’s Sirens of Titan explores a plethora of insightful topics: Society, the universe, human existence, free will, morality, and ultimately, the existential conflicts that emerge when these aspects come into dissonance. In light of this, humanity tends to critically downplay its role in shaping society, inadvertently coming into conflict with the very structures it created in the name of government and order. Vonnegut's vivid descriptions of Malachi Constant’s interactions with his futuristic society, his service in the Martian military, and his comparative solitude while on Mercury and Titan highlight the inherent flaws of rigid societal constructs as obstacles to the self-actualization that comes with existentialism, suggesting…show more content…
In the beginning of the text, Malachi Constant presents himself as a man who was wholeheartedly devoted to the pursuit of wealth and success, seeking the higher guidance of an unverified god to attain the materialistic ideals of the world around him: “Constant found his memory stuffed with rumpled, overexposed snapshots of all the women he had... with testimonials that attributed to him virtues and strengths that only three billion dollars could have”(16). Constant’s focus on achieving society’s expectations directly lead to his insecurities as a man who appears to be an ocean in terms of monetary and physical assets, but only an inch deep in terms of character and morals, revealing the compromise he had to make in order to maintain his “good fortune” due to society’s reverence for material wealth. At the same time, this introspection reveals the inability of physical pleasure and riches to satisfy the true desires of the soul (in Constant’s case, self assurance, respect, and love), highlighting a flaw of society’s materialistic…show more content…
Boaz and Unk’s relocation to Mercury, and in particular the former’s contented acceptance for the externally meaningless task of taking care of the Harmoniums, reveals the possibility for personal happiness and growth when one forgoes society’s expectations: Unk, who “was at war with his environment”, fared far worse in his exile compared to Boaz, who “had never felt better in his life”(203). Boaz, though effectively carrying a bigger burden than Unk as a commander, takes the situation much better as he decided to make the most of his circumstances, disregarding the duty imposed onto him by his society in favor of finding passion and beauty in the simplicity of the Harmoniums and life itself. Unk/Constant’s return to Earth and subsequent public humiliation (in the name of Rumford’s religion), contrasted with his comparative isolation in meaningless tranquility on Titan reveals a potential for personal growth when freed from the demands of society. Upon his return to earth, Rumford’s “just” utopia applies their “reformed” societal standards onto Constant, trapping him once again into a social construct that curbs his individuality and potential for growth, granting him the role of “the most memorable, magnificent, and meaningful human being of modern times” (261) while
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