In 1965, the American novelist Kurt Vonnegut Jr. wrote the novel, “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater or Pearls Before Swine.” This novel has a rather straightforward plot about how a loveable idiot, Eliot Rosewater, inherits a large fortune in the name of the Goldwater Foundation, but a sneaky lawyer, Norman Mushari, tries to pilfer some of the money by convincing the world that Eliot is insane.
While the plot of this novel is clear, the same cannot be said for the actual story. Like most of Vonnegut’s tales, this novel fares better as a character study than a cohesive narrative.
The novel starts off by introducing the main characters, Eliot Rosewater and Norman Mushari. Eliot is the inheritor to the Goldwater fortune, a WWII veteran, a volunteer firefighter and an odd guy who makes questionable decisions for questionable reasons. In a rather revealing part of the story, the novel explains how Eliot’s personality came from his experiences in WWII.
Yet the introduction of Eliot Rosewater may not be really considered an introduction since it takes about a third of the book. For this first portion of the novel, Eliot falls from living the extravagant life as the foundation president to living the life of a slob who gives away his money to anyone who asks.
From this introduction, the novels transitions to how the lawyer, Norman Mushari, has been keeping track of Eliot and his fortune. Mushari brings up Eliot’s distant relative, Fred Rosewater.
This second third of the novel reveals the life of this distant relative who lives in a well-detailed seaside town. This character study is not so much about the cousin but more about the people around him, such as a wife who has been experimenting with other females or even a local restaurant owner who simply has an extravagant personality. After examining the distant cousin, the novel reverts to Eliot’s upside-down life which has been put into what can be perceived as a mental institute.
A recurring theme in this story is the mental instability found in each character, all of whom have shown some sort of mental decay and have all been affected by the main theme of greed. This includes Eliot’s depravity through the freedom granted by money, or even the lengths Norman will go through to steal himself a small part of the fortune.
Using his signature quirky storytelling and witty remarks, Vonnegut paints us a world with a heavy-handed meaning, a world with characters who are developed based on the relation of their mental state compared to their greed.