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Slaughterhouse-Five and the Psychological Consequences of War

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Length: 1382 words (3.9 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Purple      
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“How nice- to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive” (Vonnegut 181).
In Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five the main character Billy Pilgrim experiences few emotions during his time in World War II. His responses to people and events lack intensity or passion. Throughout the novel Billy describes his time travel to different moments in his life, including his experience with the creatures of Tralfamadore and the bombing of Dresden. He wishes to die during most of the novel and is unable to connect with almost anyone on Earth. The fictional planet Tralfamadore appears to be Billy’s only way of escaping the horrors of war, and acts as coping mechanism. Billy seems to be a soldier with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as he struggles to express feelings and live in his reality. At the beginning of the novel the narrator proposes his reason for writing the book is to explain what happened in the Dresden fire bombing, yet he focuses on Billy’s psyche more than the bombing itself. PTSD prevents Billy from living a healthy life, which shows readers that...

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...epresents the soldiers who feel lost and detached from society. Vonnegut has had much success after the war, but his main character is not as fortunate. Vonnegut notes that he is the exception, and wants the public to see that he was the “only person (who) benefited” from the war (Vonnegut, Interview). Billy is the soldier in World War II that doesn’t have a voice because he or she can’t express it. Characteristics like this one, make Billy seem inhuman, therefore representing the ability of war to dehumanize a person and change them forever.

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