The story “2 B R O 2 B” by Kurt Vonnegut is a dystopian fiction story that revolves around a future world where the population is controlled and death is not as common and certain. The American population is fixed at 40 million citizens and giving birth is no longer as simple and outright. The population is not as large as it used to be in the past and people no longer have to scramble for resources. Death in the story is voluntary whereby one dials the number “2 B R O 2 B” if he wishes to die and books an appointment with the department facilitating the process. The controlled population means that people no longer reproduce at will since this can only increase the population almost close to the levels it used to be before the program was implemented. People wishing to have children need to first find a volunteer to die so that the child can take the place of the dead volunteer. Failure to find a volunteer leaves the government with no choice but to kill the baby since it will upset the fixed population and create chaos in the society. Although the short story “2 B R O 2 B” is not a broad or realistic representation of the American culture, it represents some of the common values, ideals and fears present in the modern society.
The ideals of the story are similar to some of the ideals popular among the young generation such as in the movies hunger games, divergent and insurgent. The popularity of the movies among the young adults is quite high and this shows that the idea that Vonnegut had of society in the story is one that other people usually imagine or would love to experience. The fascination of the young adults with such movies is captured through the high anticipation of these movies and the subsequent reception of the movies once they are released. In the movie divergent, for example, anyone entering adulthood has to choose a side that he or she feels best suits him from a choice of about five factions. Tris makes the choice of dauntless but it is soon discovered that she is a divergent and can consequently not fit into any of the factions. Tris thus has to come up with ways of protecting herself from the seniors within the faction who want to kill her once they discover she is a divergent. The movies divergent and hunger games explore similar themes to the story and the popularity of these movies is proof of the similarities between the ideals in the story and the ideals of the young adult generation in modern society.
The protagonist in the story is in a dilemma created by the dystopian society and this dilemma is characteristic of the ideals and values of modern American society. Wehling’s wife is pregnant and this means that Wehling has to find a volunteer to die in order for the child to accommodate the space left behind by the volunteer. Wehling’s task is made all the more difficult by the fact that his wife is expecting triplets and this means that he has to find three volunteers if all the children are to live. Presently, Wehling has only found one volunteer who is his maternal grandfather. Wehling does not want to lose his grandfather but he still wants all of his children to live. It leaves him at crossroads on how to best handle the situation and it is clearly disturbing him as can be seen through his reaction as he sits in the hospital waiting room. The thought of having his maternal grandfather die for the child to live is not pone he is prepared to live with as is the thought of two of his children being killed because there is no space for the two toddlers. The dilemma that Wehling finds himself in is consistent with the ideals and values of the modern American society. The modern American society values life and not one normal person wants to see another die. The American society values life and fears death and this is the same reaction that Wehling exhibits in the story. The protagonist thus shows that the ideals and fears in the dystopian society that he lives in are not as different to those of the modern American society at least for some of the people in the dystopian society. It shows that even in a dystopian society, there are people who are prepared to fight for the humanity of the world and this is encouraging for all those with the interests of the human race at heart.
Vonnegut’s story is this quite relatable with the modern generation in spite of the dystopian nature of the story and this reveals that the content is not as farfetched as it might initially appear. Vonnegut accurately captures some of the ideals, values and fears in the modern American society in the story despite its dystopian nature.
Burger, Neil. Divergent. United States of America: Lionsgate, 2014. Film.
Lawrence, Francis. & Gary Ross. The Hunger Games. United States of America: Lionsgate, 2012. Film.
Vonnegut, Kurt. “2 B R 0 2 B.” World of Science Fiction, 1962. Web. 14 Nov. 2015.