Slaughterhouse-Five Essay: Irony, Dark Humor, and Satire

Length: 671 words (1.9 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Excellent
Open Document

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Text Preview

More ↓

Continue reading...

Open Document

Irony, Dark Humor, and Satire in Slaughterhouse-Five   

Kurt Vonnegut uses a combination of dark humor and irony in Slaughterhouse-Five. As a result, the novel enables the reader to realize the horrors of war while simultaneously laughing at some of the absurd situations it can generate. Mostly, Vonnegut wants the reader to recognize the fact that one has to accept things as they happen because no one can change the inevitable.

Although Slaughterhouse-Five may not be filled with delightful satire and comical scenes, there are accounts which the force the reader to laugh. In one instance, an extremely drunk Billy Pilgrim is searching desperately for the steering wheel of his car: "He was in the backseat of his car, which is why he couldn't find the steering wheel," Vonnegut writes (47). In another episode, Billy becomes "unstuck" in time while watching television, so that he sees a war film backwards and then forwards. The most humorous sequence takes place when Billy travels from the zoo on Tralfamadore to his wedding night with his wife, Valencia. He wakes up to find himself in the German prison camp. He then finds himself back with Valencia after returning from the bathroom. He goes to sleep, then wakes up on a train on the way to his father's funeral.

In any case, the reader encounters much dark humor in the novel. There is a sense of an embittered humor with the Tralfamadorian phrase, "So it goes," which is repeated over 100 times in the novel. John May says that Vonnegut's purpose in repeating the phrase after each statement of death is to build its meaning with each incremental refrain (Contemporary Literary Criticism 8: 530). At first, the saying can be looked upon as funny in an ironic way. However, as one reads further, the phrase becomes irritating and irreverent. The reader cannot fathom so many deaths meaning so little. According t o Wayne McGinnis, it is most likely Vonnegut's intent to cause such feelings from the reader (Contemporary Literary Criticism 5: 468). This punctuating phrase forces the reader to look at the novel's deaths one after the other.

Ultimately, the repetition creates a feeling of resentment that too many people are killed. The saying is a grim reminder that means exactly the opposite of what its words say. Vonnegut ends the novel with the reminder of the deaths of JFK, Martin Luther King, and all of those that died in Vietnam.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Slaughterhouse-Five Essay: Irony, Dark Humor, and Satire." 17 Jan 2018
Title Length Color Rating  
Comic and Tragic Elements in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five Essay - Comic and Tragic Elements in Slaughterhouse Five   Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., is the tale of a World War II soldier, Billy Pilgrim. His wartime experiences and their effects lead him to the ultimate conclusion that war is unexplainable. To portray this effectively, Vonnegut presents the story in two dimensions: historical and science-fiction. The irrationality of war is emphasized in each dimension by contrasts in its comic and tragic elements. The historical seriousness of the Battle of the Bulge and the bombing of Dresden are contrasted by many ironies and dark humor; the fantastical, science-fiction-type place of Tralfamadore is, in truth, an outlet for Vonnegut to...   [tags: Slaughterhouse-Five Essays]
:: 2 Works Cited
1486 words
(4.2 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
A Life Worth Living in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five Essay - A Life Worth Living in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five Kurt Vonnegut (1922- ) is an author with a unique perspective on life. He sees in a vivid technicolor things in this world that the rest of humanity may only see in black and white. By the same token he sees life as a rather dark subject, it's the ultimate joke at our expense (Lundquist 1). His life experience has been one of hardship. His mother committed suicide in 1942. Two years later he was captured by Nazis in World War II's epic Battle of the Bulge....   [tags: Slaughterhouse-Five Essays] 2311 words
(6.6 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Slaughterhouse Five Essay - Where innumerous catastrophic events are simultaneously occurring and altering the mental capability of its viewers eternally, war is senseless killing. The participants of war that are ‘fortunate’ enough to survive become emotionally distraught civilians. Regardless of the age of the people entering war, unless one obtains the mental capacity to witness numerous deaths and stay unaffected, he or she is not equipped to enter war. Kurt Vonnegut portrays the horrors of war in Slaughterhouse Five, through the utilization of satire, symbolism, and imagery....   [tags: Literature Review]
:: 6 Works Cited
1845 words
(5.3 pages)
Term Papers [preview]
Essay about Style Analysis of Kurt Vonnegut on Slaughterhouse Five - Though war is a traumatizing and miserable experience, it may also be able to move and inspire people to write a brilliant piece of literature. One example, for instance, is Kurt Vonnegut who may have been stimulated by the war, thus writing Slaughterhouse – Five. Though one may categorize this piece as science fiction or even auto - biographical, it can also be interpreted as an anti – war piece. Because Vonnegut is classified as a post modernist, one can take into account all the details, such as the similarities between the main character and Vonnegut, the Tralfamadorians, and the style and themes of the novel, and interpret this piece with an anti – war perspective....   [tags: essays research papers fc]
:: 4 Works Cited
1583 words
(4.5 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Slaughterhouse-Five: A Peace Novel Essay - War is a tragic experience that can motivate people to do many things. Many people have been inspired to write stories, poems, or songs about war. Many of these examples tend to reflect feelings against war. Kurt Vonnegut is no different and his experience with war inspired him to write a series of novels starting with Slaughter-House Five. It is a unique novel expressing Vonnegut's feelings about war. These strong feeling can be seen in the similarities between characters, information about the Tralfamadorians, dark humor, and the structure of the novel....   [tags: Kurt Vonnegut] 1434 words
(4.1 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
Essay Irony and Humor - Irony and Humor Two popular writing techniques used by many of the enlightenment’s great were irony and humor. Great writers such as Jean-Baptiste Poquelin Moliere and Francois-Marie Arouet De Voltaire made excellent use of these techniques. With humor, both writers wrote stories which kept their audience involved in funny situations, while with irony the writers were able to explain their underlying messages. Born seventy-two years apart, they are a superb example of how these techniques were carried out over time....   [tags: essays papers] 1692 words
(4.8 pages)
Powerful Essays [preview]
The Use of Humor Essay - Humor is portrayed as the main theme of the two essays by Margaret Atwood, Female Body, and Why We Crave Horror Movies by Stephen King. However, due to different subject matter being discussed, the humor employed in each is dissimilar in many ways. The essay by Atwood is written in relation to the body of a female in which she manages to give the readers a sensitivity of the female body with a comparison of a female mentality to that of a man. She crafts her essay using humorous approach such as wit and inscrutability....   [tags: irony, horror, style]
:: 1 Works Cited
789 words
(2.3 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
The Themes of Slaughterhouse-Five Essay - The Themes of Slaughterhouse-Five The moral of "Slaughterhouse-Five" is whatever you want it to be. That is the beauty of the book. However, in his typically dark, sarcastic way, Kurt Vonnegut gives us several possible themes to explore. One of the themes relates to the way in which Mr. Vonnegut presents the human life span. Through his writing, Mr. Vonnegut poses an ancient question: Are we masters of our destiny, or are we simply pawns of fate. The medium through which Mr. Vonnegut presents this riddle is death....   [tags: Slaughterhouse-Five Essays]
:: 3 Works Cited
910 words
(2.6 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
The Intricately Woven Themes of Slaughterhouse-Five Essay - The Intricately Woven Themes of Slaughterhouse-Five At first glance Slaughterhouse-Five appears to be a simplistic story. It is a short account of a man's experiences in World War II and the effects the war had on his life. But by taking a deeper look into Slaughterhouse-Five we see intricately woven themes, contrasts, and morals. Vonnegut has disguised a great lecture against war and an acceptance of death through the idiocy and simplicity of Billy Pilgrim....   [tags: Slaughterhouse-Five Essays] 2208 words
(6.3 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Witty Humor Essay examples - I am not funny. If you were to ask my friends, they would inform you that I am only funny when I am not trying to be, as in the times when I trip and fall (which happens more often than I would like) or perform some other unintentional folly. If you were to ask someone else who doesn’t know me well, I am certain that “awkward” or “quiet” would be the words chosen to describe me far more often than “hilarious”. When I do try to be funny, I am generally aware that my jokes are bad; I rely on corniness and silly mannerisms rather than wit to elicit laughter....   [tags: Humor ]
:: 19 Works Cited
1959 words
(5.6 pages)
Term Papers [preview]

Related Searches

As a result, the phrase that first caused the reader to smile leaves the reader on the verge of tears. It makes all who read this novel feel so powerless. So it goes.

Slaughterhouse-Five contains great irony as well. In his own mind, Roland Weary consistently saves Billy from death, when in fact Weary takes delight in beating Billy (Vonnegut 51). The only time Billy is actually saved from Weary is when the Germans capture the two. Also, it is the good soldiers who are killed, not Billy or Weary: "The two scouts who had ditched Billy and Weary had just been shot" (54).

An instance that sickens the reader is the shooting of Edgar Derby for stealing a teapot. Vonnegut writes, "One guy I knew really was shot in Dresden for taking a teapot that wasn't his" (1). On the other hand, Billy gets away with keeping a diamond.

Finally, the most bitter and profound event in the novel is the bombing of Dresden. Dresden was a culturally invaluable city which had no ties with the German war effort, yet it was bombed by the Allies as a stimulus for the Germans to surrender.

Without Kurt Vonnegut's use of humor and irony, Slaughterhouse-Five would certainly not be considered such a creative accomplishment. It is because of these devices that Vonnegut's objectives are so effectively achieved. Through its dark humor, the novel forces the reader to become nauseated by deaths that are unnecessary. At the end of the novel, the reader despises war just as much as Kurt Vonnegut himself does, if not more.


Return to