Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan: Page by Page, Chapter by Chapter Review: Chapter 4 – Tent Rentals

This chapter is the best fiction writing about the dangers of propaganda, brainwashing, censorship, and centralized control. A man wordlessly strangles another in front of a crowd of ten thousand, unable to communicate, unable to object, and unable to think for himself.

Chapter Summary

  • Unk, a 40 year old Martian soldier, is ordered to strangle a man to death in front of his battalion of 10,000 fellow soldiers.
  • Unk strangles the man, whose dying words are about a blue stone, because he – like all of the soldiers, is under mine control from radio antennas.
  • In addition to the mind control, soldiers are sent to the hospital for brainwashing – where Unk was told he is best soldier in his unit, despite the fact that his superior, Brackman, believes him to be the unit “f-ckup.”

There are no *** dividers between sections.

Page by Page, Writing Highlights

Page 95 – Start

“The snare drum had this to say to them:

Rented a tent, a tent, a tent;” Page 95

“Their uniforms were a rough-textured, frosty-green – the color of lichens.” Page 95

“Unk was forty years old.” Page 96

“That’s the platoon f-kup.” Page 97 – Brackman, about Unk.

“Something painful was going to happen to the man at the stake – something from which the man would want to escape very much, something from which he was not going to escape, because of the chains.” Page 97

“The soldiers were free to think a little now, and to look around and to send messages with their eyes, if they had messages and could find receivers.” Page 98

From a writing style standpoint;

  • “The stake was nineteen feet, six and five thirty-seconds inches high, not counting…”
  • “The stake had a mean diameter of two feet, five and …”
  • “The stake was composed of…
  • “For the information of the man at the stake: He was one hundred and…”

“At the hospital they told him again and again and again that he was the best soldier in the best squad in the best platoon in the best company in the best battalion in the best regiment in the best division in the best army.” Page 99 – Vonnegut describes the Martian Army’s use of mind control, as a metaphor for propaganda.

“At the hospital they even had to explain to Unk what Combat Respiratory Rations or CRR’s or goofballs were – had to tell him to take one every six hours or suffocate.” Page 100

“At the hospital they had said the most important rule of all was this one: Always obey a direct order without a moment’s hesitation.” Page 100

“Life was like that, Unk told himself tentatively – blanks and glimpses, and now and then maybe that awful flash of pain for doing something wrong.” Page 101

“Unk was puzzled by the man’s silence – and then realized that the man’s antenna must be keeping him silent, just as antennas were keeping all of the soldiers silent.” Page 102

“Blue stone, Unk,” he said. “Barrack twelve … letter.” Page 103

“An observer would have been at a loss to who was really in charge, since even the generals moved like marionettes, keeping time to the idiotic words:” Page 104

Page 104 – End

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