Vonnegut, Jr., Kurt

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Willms, Janice
  • Date of entry: Nov-01-2001
  • Last revised: Aug-10-2006


An expectant father waits to learn the outcome of his wife’s labor and delivery. In his brief exchanges with another father-to-be the reader is apprised of Mr. Knechtmann’s history. He and his wife are holocaust survivors; their only prior child died in a displaced-person’s camp in Germany--and there is no one to carry on the proud family name if this infant is not healthy. A bored nurse comes to inform Heinz that he has a son and everyone is well.

The ecstatic father seeks someone to share in his joy. The folks in the bar across the street could care less; the delivering physician just wants to go to sleep; the other father now has seven daughters and can’t get too excited about someone else’s son. Even a fellow worker whom Heinz meets on the street is politely unimpressed. Only when he can finally visit with the baby’s mother can he find a partner in joy. She says, "It’s the most wonderful thing that ever happened, isn’t it?"


This sweet and simple story of the most important event in one man’s life being of no significance to anyone else is suggestive of our collective inability to resonate with one another’s agony or joy. Although the emotion is grief rather than ecstasy, this little tale calls to mind Chekhov’s story, Misery, in which a lonely father can find no human being who will listen to him talk of his recently dead son (see this database).


First published in Cosmopolitan.

Primary Source

Welcome to the Monkey House



Place Published

New York



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