Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan: Page by Page, Chapter by Chapter Review: Chapter 9 – A Puzzle Solved


Over three years, Unk searches for a way out of the caves of Mercury, climbing higher and higher – returning to the spaceship less and less. Boaz becomes a friend and overseer to the harmonium, playing them music and even having some live on him. One day, the harmonium on a wall have the answer to the puzzle spelled out, “Turn the ship upside down.” Boaz decides to stay with the harmonium on Mercury.

One new theme explored is whether or not Boaz is doing anything positive for a creature with no intelligence, or is he anthropomorphizing the experience of the harmonium for his own benefit.

Begin – Page 199

“In terms of their souls, the martyrs of Mars died not when they attacked Earth but when they were recruited for the Martian war machine.” – The Winston Niles Rumfoord Pocket History of Mars Page 199

“The harmoniums spelled out for Unk and Boaz a new message of hope or veiled derision every fourteen Earthling days – for three years.” Page 200

“Dog Wuzza Kazak.” Page 201 – Vonnegut uses a children’s book to convey a story within the story.

Break 1 – Page 201

“On the upper levels where Unk wandered, the harmoniums were stunted and few.”
“On the cozy lower level where Boaz lived, the harmoniums were plentiful and fast growing.” Page 201

“Boaz had come into the space ship with a harmonium, which was exactly like all the other harmoniums, and he’d said, “Aint’ he a cute little feller, Unk?” page 202 – the question that leads to Unk attempting to kill Boaz.

Break 2 – Page 202

“He had come to regard his environment as being either malevolent or cruelly mismanaged.” Page 203 – Unk, threadbare, searching for a way off of Mercury.

“Boaz, twelve years younger than Unk, had never felt better in his life.” Page 203

“The door was necessary, since Boaz was God Almighty to the harmoniums.” Page 204

“True – Unk had walked fifty miles to every mile walked by Boaz, but Boaz’s shoes had not merely held up.” Page 204

“When Boaz found a harmonium he loved more than all the rest, that was what he did – let the creature feed on his pulse.” Page 204

“Unk liked to twist things around to where it seemed that anybody who was happy was dumb or crazy.” Page 204

“All I know is we’re being tested somehow, by somebody or some thing a whole lot smarter than us, and all I can do is be friendly and keep calm and try and have a nice time till it’s over.” Boaz, Page 205

“Don’t truth me,” said Boaz in his thoughts, “and I won’t truth you.” Page 205, Boaz on recalling Unk’s murder of Stony Stevenson.

“Boaz had invented the plea, and its meaning was this: Unk was to stop telling Boaz truths about the harmoniums, because Boaz loved the harmoniums, and because Boaz was nice enough not to bring up truths that would make Unk unhappy.” Page 206

“Just because something feels better than anything else,” he said in his thoughts, “that don’t mean its good for you.”

Break 3 – Page 207

“Scholars whose field is the Martian War often exclaim over the queer unevenness of Rumfoord’s war preparations.” – Page 207

“It is said that Rumfoord spent more time on the useless music libraries than he did on artillery and field sanitation combined.” Page 208

“When Boaz gave them their first taste of music, which happened to be Le Sacre du Printemps, some of the creatures actually died in ecstacy.” Page 208

Break 4 – Page 209

“If you ain’t got no more sense tan that,” he would say in his thoughts to the foolhardy harmonium, “you’re going to wind up out here in left field ever’ time. Think it over.” Page 210, Boaz to the Harmonium as he arranges a concert for them.

“I tell you,” Unk said to himself with satisfaction, “that is one pair they want to keep apart at all costs.” Page 210

“Unk’s imagination was now certain that the masters of all creation lived in those buildings.” Page 211

“Unk knew a lot of things for sure.” Page 211

“It just floated in air, suspended by magnetism.” Page 211 – Unk’s memory projects his hatred of the building owners to his own mind of is own office from earlier in the book.

“He was bound to admit, when given the solution to the puzzle that he had failed to solve in three years, that the puzzle was simple and fair.” Page 212

“His broad, brown, slab-muscled back amazed Unk.” Page 213

“Ain’t nobody watching out for ’em at all!” he cried. Page 214 – Boaz remembers the stereo is on, that the Harmonium will overdose on music.

“That was what the harmonium on the ceiling had said: UNK, TURN THE SHIP UPSIDE DOWN.” Page 214

“You see, Unk?” he said. “See what happens when somebody just runs off and forgets?” – Page 215

“Boaz, when he straightened up, was a wise, decent, weeping, brown Hercules.” – Page 215

“Some part of his mind warned him that Boaz was not bluffing, that Boaz really knew a truth about Unk that could tear him to pieces.” Page 216

“And when I die down here some day,” said Boaz, “I’m going to be able to say to myself, ‘Boaz – you made millions of lives worth living.” – Page 217

End – Page 217

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