Writings #3: Who Am I This Time?

3 minute read


Part 3 in a collection of posts where I’ll give some of my thoughts and analysis on essays, short stories, novels, movies, etc. It is not really anything academic, but purely for me to practice my writing.

Who Am I This Time?

A short story by Kurt Vonnegut

As I have been reading more and more Kurt Vonnegut, he is slowly becoming my favorite fiction and short story author. His stories are certainly captivating and leave me wanting for more, while his longer works, such as Slaughterhouse Five, provoke more thought than a comical book should be capable. But on top of his compelling stories, on top of his rapid, but thorough character development is his descriptive genius and flowing writing style. Vonnegut illustrates a scene with powerful description in essentially every component of his work. Beyond the established descriptive prowess, is the natural eb and flow. As someone who prefers and enjoys technical writing, the eased stream of thought is much appreciated. I would say I enjoy reading his style significantly more than others, but with Vonnegut it hardly feels as though I am reading.

None of these thoughts are necessarily specific to Who Am I This Time? and perhaps this is the wrong place to include these general ideas. However, they are things I have grown to appreciate through reading Vonnegut.

Who Am I This Time? is a comforting story. Perhaps there is not much to say in regards to the meaning behind the story. I do not believe it lends itself towards any sort of deep interpretations. Put simply it tells a story: the story of a magnificent actor with not much to offer off stage and a quirky phone store clerk who had only ever experienced love for movie characters.

Given perspective these two characters “fit” together. Harry, the actor, who worked at a hardware store when not performing for the local theater, was emotionless. His only drive in life, the only time he shined was when he acted. And he acted marvelously. Visiting the town where Harry dazzled his audiences was Helene the traveling phone store clerk. Having traveled her whole life she had never formed any meaningful relationships or ever even loved. Pitifully, she imagined herself being married to the characters in movies. Her only knowledge of intimacy was scripted and broadcast to her from across the country.

With prescience one could have pinned these two together immediately, but, alas, the story unfolds. Amidst the performance and romantic tension they do, however, find each other. They glue together wonderfully: the man who is only alive when acting and the woman who falls in love with characters. Their marriage, as the narrator reveals, is lived out in plays. Their marital happiness determined by whichever play they are reading that week.

I do not see any merit in over analyzing this story. It is heartwarming and fun to read. My only complaint is that it ended too soon.

– Daniel Nichols