Billy Pilgrim's Struggle with PTSD in Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five Essay

Billy Pilgrim's Struggle with PTSD in Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five Essay

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In order to illustrate the devastating affects of war, Kurt Vonnegut afflicted Billy Pilgrim with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which caused him to become “unstuck in time” in the novel. Billy Pilgrim illustrates many symptoms of PTSD throughout the story. Vonnegut uses these Slaughterhouse Five negative examples to illustrate the horrible and devastating examples of war. The examples from the book are parallel to real life experiences of war veterans, including Vonnegut’s, and culminate in a very effective anti-war novel.
Although Kurt Vonnegut does not say in his novel that Billy Pilgrim has PTSD, it is implied by the first hand view into Pilgrim’s mind. Looking at the symptoms of PTSD it’s reasonable to infer that he was afflicted with the disorder. First of all, PTSD is a, “… condition that can occur after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal … Traumatic events … include … military combat” (“Facts About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”).
Billy Pilgrim served in World War II and was captured by the Germans, taken as a Prisoner of War (POW) and survived the horrific Dresden fire bombing by hiding out in a slaughterhouse’s cellar. Dresden was a city in Germany that had been virtually untouched by the war before February 13, 1945. Survivors described it as a, “fairy-tale city” before the bombing. After, however, was a different story. It’s thought that 35,000-135,000 people were killed in the firebombing and the justification for this attack is highly disputed. Attacking Dresden was not of immediate military significance and it’s now thought that their railways were the bomber’s target. (Koenig). This situation, along with all of the others he was in, would have most certainly led to a very severe form of PTSD, espec...


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... the people who witnessed it first hand. It destroys everything in its path for years, and sometimes lifetimes afterward. Using all of these points and his brilliant techniques, Vonnegut created a truly effective anti-war novel.

Works Cited
Robert L. Koenig. "Dresden 1945." St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, MO) Feb. 5 1995: 4B. SIRS Researcher. Web. 18 December 2009.
Robert Saperstein and Dana Saperstein. "The Emotional Wounds of War." Military Review Jan. 1992: 54-61. SIRS Researcher. Web. 15 December 2009.
"Trauma/PTSD." Self Injury. 14 Jan 2002. Web. 15 Dec 2009. .
Unknown. "Facts About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder." Facts About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sept. 1999: n.p. SIRS Government Reporter. Web. 15 December 2009.
Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five. New York, New York: Dell Publishing, 1991. Print.

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