Applying a School of Criticism of Schilb and Clifford Analyze “2BR02B”
Set in a dystopian future where population is strictly controlled, a father waits for his children to be born. In a deserted hospital waiting room, one man must ask himself exactly what he is willing to do to give his children a chance at life, any life at all.
In “2BR02B”, Vonnegut does a good job of creating a dystopian society. Immediately in the beginning of the story, Vonnegut introduces the apparently perfect society. He mentions how there are no prisons, diseases, poverty, and war. As we continue reading, however, we start to learn that maybe this society isn’t too perfect. The first thing that caught my attention is the static population of United States. There isn’t a way to control the population without using some type of manipulation or force. A little while later, we are introduced to a popular song of that era. While the song might be popular, it is obviously propaganda used by the government to tell people to volunteer to kill themselves. It isn’t until later in the story do the readers truly understand the meaning of this song. It turns out that this “perfect society” has its flaws. We find out how the government is able to control the size of the population of the United States. Without disease, poverty, and everything bad, people don’t die. So, to control the population size, the government requires for every baby born, a person must volunteer to go to the Federal Bureau of Termination, the sector of the government responsible for putting people to sleep. Halfway through the story we meet Dr. Benjamin Hitz. He is the head doctor at the hospital, and he is described as very handsome. We can think of him as the poster person for the ideals of this dystopia. He is the person, who is idolized by the civilization, and usually ends up explaining the beliefs of the dystopian rulers to the protagonist of the story. In “2BR02B”, Dr. Hitz explains the reasoning behind the birth control to the protagonist, Edward K. Wehling, a father of triplets. The propaganda, a seemingly perfect society, and the idolized Dr. Hitz are important characteristics that help determine that “2BR02B” is a dystopian story. The means of maintaing this “perfect society’ is not directly explained to the readers. Instead, we have to infer how the government is able to exact its control over the citizens. I believe that the most probable method is through a totalitarian government. Throughout the story, we are given some hints that it is mostly the power of the government that keeps people in-line. The gas chambers used to kill people are controlled by the Federal Bureau of Termination, a government controlled program. However, we cannot rule out the role of science in this dystopian society. Somehow the government at that time was able to eradicate all diseases and death by old age. Science is the most likely explanation. Then it could also be inferred that science should play a part in the implementation of population control.
Briefly, the setting plays a crucial role in the short story. The characters live in a society where aging has been cured. People never die or grow old. The government controls the population because population in United States had reached forty million. The only way someone could be born is if someone chose to gave up their life. The main character is named Edward K. Wehling. His wife is in the process of giving birth to triplets. The only way they can all be born is if three people die. In the hospital room there is a painter. He is decorating the wall for the new room. Dr. Benjamin Hitz, the hospital's Chief Obstetrician. Leora Duncan, from the Service Division of the Federal Bureau of Termination, arrives to pose for the mural. Without hisitating Wehling kills the doctor, Duncan and himself in order to allow his three children to be born.