Vonnegut’s The Euphio Question is a short story I found in his anthology entitled Welcome to the Monkey House. It’s funny, but in perfect Vonnegut fashion it’s also profound in its take on human happiness. The story is told in the form of the unnamed narrator’s testimony to the Federal Communications Commission. He, along with Lew Harrison and Dr. Fred Bockman (a radio announcer and physicist respectively), inadvertently invent a gadget that induces a peace of mind the likes of which man has never known. It is essentially a radio transmitter that amplifies and broadcasts signals from far off heavenly bodies. Anyone within range, they soon learn, gets hit with an irresistible wave of contentedness. They decide to test it out on themselves and their families (great idea, right?), and the rest, I shall leave to you to find out.
A Notable Quote
There’s one phrase that stuck out as particularly funny: “…the rest of us lay draped around the room, whimpering about hunger, cold, and thirst…” (Vonnegut 202). I just love the use of the word “draped”. I had never thought to describe people the way one might describe a soggy curtain. The imagery is fucking hilarious.
A Trick for My Writer’s Toolkit
There’s something Vonnegut did that I’m going to experiment with myself. I’m hoping you take the time to read this short story, so I’ll leave out the details. Essentially, Vonnegut would open a scene by establishing something that a character does not want. And then he’d show us a situation in which the same character concedes that very thing. It’s a simple, but effective way of highlighting the influence of the particular situation they are in.
I’d say I’m starting this challenge right. Of course, Vonnegut is a rather safe pick. I don’t remember ever not enjoying something he wrote. (Well, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Galapagos, but even then, I had to admit it was well written). The Euphio Question is absolutely worth your time. It’s a short read, but it’s full of laughs and it still manages to give the reader something to think about.