New Criticism

My Money or Your Money?

Kaetlynn Sanford

The American Dream is a well-known story throughout history. This can be a difficult piece if you are not familiar with the American Dream and other events in past and present times. This poem gives us a small look at Sheldon Quick and him wanting money and only thinking about money. While some readers can relate to wanting money and relying on others to give you money, other readers can relate and know the struggles of not having money. Those readers who do not know what the American Dream is may stick to “fighting” with the narrator and “fighting” about whether or not the narrator worked for the money or not. One of the many big ideas throughout this book is that you have to work hard for the things in your life; not everything just comes right in front of you. A lot of what we experience in life is blind-sided, meaning we do not always see it right in front of us, but we can hear it. Kurt Vonnegut’s personal experiences of World War II, the fire bombings, and The American Dream are important factors in determining his audiences or writing styles.

One of the first allusions that I was able to draw from this story is Vonnegut’s personal experience of World War II. Throughout the story of “The Drone King” was his idea of bees, and it seems like the idea behind this was to bring people together as bees come together in a beehive. Now his ideas with bees connect with the idea that Vonnegut wanted to change the world with the ways that he wrote and the things that he experienced. The narrator’s experience with World War II affected the way that he wrote; his main goal was to communicate his ideas and thoughts about the world to the average person. “‘What is it? I said. ‘A bee war?'” (Vonnegut). With the narrator’s experience with the war, he can put things in that they were able to see. For everyone else looking at the bees, it looks like it is a swarm of bees that were ready to attack, while to others it seems as if it could be that allusion to the war. Later on in the story, it talks about the different kinds of bees and what they think that they should be doing. If we look at this from the perspective of the war, we can make similar observations about the war too, whether those are observations about who should be fighting and who should not be fighting and what certain people should be doing. The allusion to World War II helps the audience to make those connections with the things that have happened in the past, things that affect an individual or a group of people.

The allusion to the war helps the reader to understand what happened in the past and how it can be applied to today. The examples from Vonnegut’s life, while they may affect his writing, he does a good job of making sure to connect with his audiences by using these examples. When the narrator writes about the bees, the reader tends to not be able to make different connections with different events that have happened in the past. The swarm of bees that the narrator talks about can be compared to that of all the soldiers that fought in the war and continue to fight in the war. As soon as the audience questions whether they are going to be attacked by these bees they can make the connection of how they are not sure if the soldiers are going to attack them or if they are going to die.

Another good allusion that can be made throughout this story is the fire bombings that the narrator has experienced in one way or another. The point of this section is to get the reader to understand that bombs are heard and not seen. A lot of the examples that the narrator gives us throughout the story are things that we can hear about more than we can experience them. “The devastation of London during the Blitz was wreaked upon the city by bombs never seen by their victims” (Ferguson 103). This can be connected to the bees in the sense that it is easy to hear the sound of a bee sometimes instead of finding it. A lot of the examples that we are getting throughout the story are more of a listening skill rather than that of seeing it right in front of us. Sometimes a lot of the things that we experience in our life are things that are heard rather than being seen. I love the example given that bombings are a blind noise because sometimes it is easier to know what is going on if you just stop and listen to the things that are going on around you or the world. The story “The Drone King” talks about saying goodbye when people promised to stay: “He sat up, blinking blindly” (Vonnegut). He is blinded because he was told that nobody was going to say goodbye, and everyone is leaving. Now with the bees, it is easy to say that we heard them and now we don’t; things come and go in their life and just like the bombs, we are blinded to the fact that they came in the first place.

The allusion to hearing things as a reader was something that I could relate to as a reader because a lot of what Vonnegut and the narrator talk about is seeing things from a blind perspective, which was interesting. As part of connecting to the reader, Vonnegut wants to be connected with their audiences and part of this is understanding who the reader is and what they may be going through. A lot of what different people go through depends on the sound of things; what they hear. Vonnegut uses this example to get to the reader and to get them to experience life through just listening to the sounds around us because we cannot always be there to experience it with our eyes.

One of the last pieces of allusion, and my personal favorite throughout the story, is the allusion to the American Dream, which most audiences are aware of. The American Dream is something that Vonnegut seems to write a lot about, whether or not the reader can pick it out: “… Starbuck’s individual life refracts the development of larger historical forces from the turn-of-the-century labor fights through the Nuremberg Trial… aberrations of recent American History and the failure of the American Dream” (Freese 137).  Throughout the short story “The Drone King” the narrator talks about getting money from family members and wanting to be a successful businessman making millions. This fits hand in hand with the American Dream because this dream was all about making money. The only thing that mattered in a person’s life was money and if they were going to be successful. The narrator does a wonderful job describing what this character wants and talking about how he wants to be this rich person and make money and eventually do that for the rest of his life.

The allusion that is made to the American Dream can be a sign of what our world is turning into and what people can be so concerned about. A lot of people rely on money whether it be that they get it from someone else or that their family directly gives to them. The thing with the American Dream is that so many people can relate to it and expect it to happen to them, that they do not understand that it can take complete control over them. When the narrator tells us about Sheldon, they may not understand the American Dream or what is going on with Sheldon. They may see it as a family just supporting him and helping him throughout the process of business. The bees, when compared to the American Dream, can be something along the lines that the bees can represent the amount of money that Sheldon, or really anyone, can have when they are just given everything until at one point, they all disappear and there is nothing left.

One of the big ideas in this story is that you have to work hard in life because nothing comes easy in your life. We see that with Sheldon everything came easy for him up until when it comes to wanting to make and run his own company. In the story “The Drone King” by Kurt Vonnegut there are many great examples of things that have happened and affected the world in one way or another. It can be hard to understand this story and what is going on if you do not have the experience or the understanding of these events. When it comes to the narrator, they do an amazing job giving clear and concise examples of some of these events for us to understand what is going on and how it can affect our lives today. Vonnegut’s experiences when writing stories and connecting to the audiences are what help his audiences to connect on a personal level to what is going on. I love that Vonnegut’s goal is to connect real-life problems with his audiences to bond better with the average person. Kurt Vonnegut’s personal experiences of World War II, the fire bombings, and The American Dream are important factors in determining his audiences or writing styles.


Works Cited

Ferguson, Rex. “Blind Noise and Deaf Visions: Henry Green’s Caught, Synaesthesia and the Blitz.” Journal of Modern Literature 33.1 (2009): 102-116.

Freese, Peter. “Kurt Vonnegut’s” Jailbird”: Recent American History and the Failure of the American Dream.” Amerikastudien/American Studies (1999): 137-165.

Vonnegut, Kurt. “A Newly Discovered Kurt Vonnegut Story.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 10 Jan. 2020,



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Beginnings and Endings: A Critical Edition Copyright © 2021 by Liza Long is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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