Coping Mechanisms in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five Essay

Coping Mechanisms in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five Essay

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People react differently to tragedies: some mourn, some speak up, and some avoid the sorrow. In Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut suggests the danger and inhumanity of turning away from the discomfort by introducing Billy Pilgrim as someone who is badly affected by the aftermath of the Dresden bombing, and the Tralfamadorians as the aliens who provide an easy solution to Billy. It is simpler to avoid something as tragic as death, but Vonnegut stresses the importance of confronting it. Vonnegut, like many artists, expresses his ideas through his creations. The significance of art is not confined to helping and inspiring the general public; the process of creating art also becomes another form of coping mechanism for artists.

In Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut expresses one of his ideas by focusing on the emotional impact of wars, instead of historical details. Because of this, Slaughterhouse-Five has received criticism for not being an accurate account of the Dresden bombing. There is no cause and effect in the book, not even a climax that is common to making it a good work of fiction. Vonnegut puts together the novel with small episodes and scatters them throughout the book without an actual timeline – the readers are traveling with Billy being spastic in time, living in the past, the present, and the future. It is, after all, not a history book but a science fiction novel. Vonnegut clarifies the logic of the novel’s style through the Tralfamadorians, who explain to Billy the layout of their books: “There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time” (Vonnegut 112). It is clear that the Tralfamadorians...


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Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five. New York: Dial. 2009. Print.

Vees-Gulani, Suzanne. “Diagnosing Billy Pilgrim: A Psychiatric Approach to Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five.” Critique 44.2 (2003): 175-84. Print.

Rackstraw, Loree. “The Vonnegut Cosmos.” The North American Review 267.4 (Dec. 1982): 63-67. JSTOR. Web. 25 Sept. 2011.

Simpson, Josh. “‘This Promising of Great Secrets’: Literature, Ideas, and the (Re)Invention of Reality in Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Slaughterhouse-Five, and Breakfast of Champions Or ‘Fantasies of an Impossibly Hospitable World’: Science Fiction and Madness in Vonnegut’s Troutean Trilogy.” Critique 45.3 (2004): 261-71. Print.

Grace, Gillian. “Music for a broken city: The Cellist of Sarajevo is a novel-length lament of war.” Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. CBC, 22 April. 2008. Web. 28 Sept. 2011.

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