Age and experience with life greatly affects you as a person, and your views and perception. Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Happy Birthday, 1951”, clearly demonstrates this. We are presented with two main characters. A young boy, and an old man, who live in city ruins during a war. The story tells us about each of their views and outlooks on the situation they are in.
A major difference between the boy and the old man, is each of their views on war. The old man is very serious about the war, and he sees all the horrible things in it.
“He cut the sentence short. “It’s all nonsense,” he said, almost sharply. “It’s all meaningless, and today we’re going to forget all about it. Of all days, on your birthday, you shouldn’t be thinking about-” (p. 3, ll. 85-87).
This quote shows that he isn’t comfortable talking about the war.
On the opposite side, the boy is much less emotionally affected by the war and doesn’t take it as seriously. The boy’s ignorance can be seen here: “” Why are you shaking?” said the Boy. “Because I’m old. Because soldiers frighten old men.” “They don’t frighten me,” said the boy.” (p.1, ll. 15-17). This quote also demonstrates the boy’s innocence, since he doesn’t feel any form of threat from the soldiers. He is even somewhat fascinated by them. “” Black and red is the engineers,” … “Plain black is the military police, and red…” (p. 3, ll. 88-89). This quote very clearly shows that he has been studying the soldiers.
In the beginning of the text, the old man gives the boy two presents. A cart that the old man imagines as a car or a truck. And a trip away from the war, to the forest. Clearly, the trip to the forest was meant as the most meaningful gift, but out of the two, the boy seems most glad for the cart. But not only does he prefer the cart over the forest trip, he pretends is a tank, which of course to the old man goes against his views on war.
The story mainly occurs at two places, which are also opposites. The city, where they live in ruins and in cellars. The city, and the war that is going on there, from the old man’s perspective, represents fear, suffering and constraint. While in contrast to the city, the forest that the old man is eager to visit represents peace of mind and freedom. But not just the places themselves are contrasts. Again, the boy and the old man have different views. This time on the two places in the story. In the city the old man is shaky and nervous. But the boy likes the city: “I like it better in the city, with the soldiers…” (p.4, l. 129). The boy comments this when him and the old man go to the forest.

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