2 B R 0 2 B
- 2BR02B is a science fiction short story by Kurt Vonnegut, published in 1962, and collected in Vonnegut's Bagombo Snuff Box (1999). The title is pronounced "2 B R naught 2 B", referencing the famous phrase "to be, or not to be" from William Shakespeare's Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. In this story, the title refers to the telephone number one dials to schedule an assisted suicide with the Federal Bureau of Termination. Vonnegut's 1965 novel God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater describes a story by this name, attributing it to his recurring character Kilgore Trout, although the plot summary given is closer in nature to the eponymous tale from the short-story collection Welcome to the Monkey House. The setting is a society in which aging has been cured, individuals have indefinite lifespans, and population control is used to limit the population of the United States to forty million. This is maintained through a combination of infanticide and government-assisted suicide - in short, in order for someone to be born, someone must first volunteer to die. As a result, births are few and far between, and deaths occur primarily by accident. The scene is a waiting room at the Chicago Lying-In Hospital, where Edward K. Wehling, Jr. is faced with the situation that his wife is about to give birth to triplets, but he has found only one person - his maternal grandfather - who will volunteer to die. A painter on a stepladder is redecorating the room with a mural depicting famous doctors and nurses - in particular, 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. The mural is a picture of a garden that's well taken care of. It is a metaphor for the United States at that time. Later, Dr. Hitz enters the scene, conversing with everyone but the painter of the mural.