Slaughterhouse-Five is a story of Billy Pilgrim 's capture by the Nazi Germans during the last years of World War II. Throughout the narrative, excerpts of Billy’s life are portrayed from his pre-war self to his post-war insanity. Billy is able to move both forward and backwards through his life in a random cycle of events. Living the dull life of a 1950s optometrist in Ilium, New York, he is the lover of a provocative woman on the planet Tralfamadore, and simultaneously an American prisoner of war in Nazi Germany. While I agree with Christopher Lehmann-Haupt that Slaughterhouse-Five effectively combines fact and fiction, I argue that the book is more centralized around coping.
In 1945 Kurt Vonnegut witnessed a horrific series of bombings that led to the destruction of the German city of Dresden, where he was taken as a prisoner of war. The controversial fire-storm raid, carried out by bombers of the Royal Air Force and US Air Force, took casualties of up to a quarter million people (Klinkowitz x-xi). As a prisoner of war, Vonnegut was forced to participate as a corpse miner in the city's cleanup process. Upon his return from the Second World War, Vonnegut decided to write a book describing his traumatic war experiences. After twenty years of struggling with research, failing to recall personal experiences, and publishing two novels and countless short stories, Kurt Vonnegut finally published-as what he frequently refers to as-the "book about Dresden." It was titled Slaughterhouse Five or the Children's Crusade: A Duty Dance With Death, or more simply: Slaughterhouse Five. The result of twenty years of work is a biography that has been bizarrely fictionalized by Vonnegut's incorporation of anecdotes about alien abduction and time travel.
Kurt Vonnegut’s background had an endless influence upon his writing. In his early years, Vonnegut was a private in the 106th infantry division in World War II. He and five scouts were caught behind enemy lines, and then captured. They were held POWs and were beaten on various occasions. In 1945, they witnessed the fire-bombing of Dresden, Germany. Kept during this time in a slaughterhouse, this is part of the inspiration for Slaughterhouse-five. After being released from the Slaughterhouse, Vonnegut called Dresden “utter destruction” and “carnage unfathomable”. This distressing time in his life led to one of the many themes of Slaughterhouse-five which is that nothing good can come from war and a massacre. This theme is expressed in the story when Billy Pilgrim says “Birds were talking. One bird said to Billy Pilgrim ’Poo-tee-weet?’” After the bombing, the POWs had to gather the bodies for a mass grave and then all the remains were set on fire. Vonnegut and the other prisoners were only there for a few more months, until they were rescued. The lasting effect this awful war caused Vonnegut had significant affect upon his writing; on return to the U.S., he was awarded a purple heart.
The main event that leads Billy to all his confusion is the time he spent in Dresden and witnessed the fire-bombings that constantly pop in his head along with pictures of all the innocent people Billy saw that fled to Dresden the "safe spot" from the war before the bombing. When Billy sees the faces of the innocent children it represents his fear of the situation. Billy can't acknowledge the fact that they were innocent and they were killed by Americans, Americans soldiers just like himself. The biggest issue Billy cannot come to grasp with is why the bombings took place. That question has no answer; it's just something that happened that Billy couldn't get over. During all Billy's travels back to Dresden he couldn't change what had really happened there although that was the closure he was looking for. Dresden purely represents Bill's past and fears of the truth about what happened.
Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on November 11, 1922. After attending Cornell University from 1941-43 Vonnegut served in World War II and was captured during the Battle of the Bulge. As a prisoner of war, he survived the fire bombing of Dresden by Allied forces on 13 February, 1945 in an underground meat-storage cellar. When he emerged the next morning, Vonnegut was put to work pulling corpses from the ruins of the desolated city once known as "the Venice of the North." In one night the horrific fire-bombing of Dresden killed more people than the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined, more than 135,000 in all. Vonnegut's first-hand experiences of this, one of the darkest episodes in human history, would later provide the basis for his most influential work, Slaughterhouse Five (1969), though it would take him more than twenty years to come to terms with his wartime experiences and complete the novel.
War novels often depict a war hero facing off against an enemy, with a winner on the other side. However, Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse Five takes an opposite approach to the telling of a war story. The narrator uses the protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, to display his own anti-war sentiment. Vonnegut’s style of writing as well as his characters help to portray the effect of war on individuals and society as a whole.
Within the novel Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, the character Billy Pilgrim claims to have come “unstuck” in time. Having survived through being a Prisoner of War and the destruction of Dresden during World War II, and having been a prisoner used to clear away debris of the destruction, there can be little doubt that Pilgrim’s mental state was unstable. Furthermore, it may be concluded that Pilgrim, due to the effects of having been a Prisoner of War, and having been witness to the full magnitude of destruction, suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which caused him to review the events over and over during the course of his life. In order to understand how these factors, the destruction of Dresden and ‘PTSD’, came to make Billy Pilgrim “unstuck” in time, one must review over the circumstances surrounding those events.
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 the war does not stop after the fighting is over and the aftermath is ongoing. Billy Pilgrim’s story portrays the bombing and war in a negative light to readers, as Vonnegut shows the damaging effects of war on an individual, such as misperception of time, disconnect from peers, and inability to feel strong emotions, to overall create a stronger message.
This independent reading assignment is dedicated to Slaughterhouse-Five, written by Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut experienced many hardships during and as a result of his time in the military, including World War II, which he portrays through the protagonist of Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy Pilgrim. Slaughterhouse-Five, however, not only introduces these military experiences and the internal conflicts that follow, but also alters the chronological sequence in which they occur. Billy is an optometry student that gets drafted into the military and sent to Luxembourg to fight in the Battle of Bulge against Germany. Though he remains unscathed, he is now mentally unstable and becomes “unstuck in time” (Vonnegut 30). This means that he is able to perceive
However, the books present response to war in a contrasting way. The incorporation of repetition, balance, and the idea of little control of one’s fate display parallelism between Billy Pilgrim and the soldiers of The Things They Carried while still distinguishing the existing psychological and internal contrast between them. When Billy is leading a parade in front of the Dresdeners prior to the bombing, Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five, uses the biblical allusion of Lot’s wife looking back on the destroyed cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to parallel the story of Billy Pilgrim during the war and his experience after, when he returns to the United States. Although the reference is brief, it has profound implications to the portrayal of America during World War II, especially the bombing of Dresden. Although Lot’s wife’s action dooms her to turn into a pillar of salt, the narrator emphasizes her choice to indicate the importance of being compassionate and having hindsight. Ultimately, Slaughterhouse-Five critiques the American social attitude to disregard the unjust nature of its actions in World War II. Furthermore, Vonnegut’s novel explicates this by elucidating the horrors of war—especially in regard to the massacre of innocence, how it leaves the soldiers stagnant when they return home, and leaves them empty with an American Dream that cannot be fulfilled. In order to combat violence, the novel stresses that one must hold human life to a higher value and be compassionate towards others; America must acknowledge its mistakes so that the soldiers who fought and died for her so that the soldiers may move on.
"In Slaughterhouse Five, -- Or the Children's Crusade, Vonnegut delivers a complete treatise on the World War II bombing of Dresden. The main character, Billy Pilgrim, is a very young infantry scout* who is captured in the Battle of the Bulge and quartered in a Dresden slaughterhouse where he and other prisoners are employed in the production of a vitamin supplement for pregnant women. During the February 13, 1945, firebombing by Allied aircraft, the prisoners take shelter in an underground meat locker. When they emerge, the city has been levelled and they are forced to dig corpses out of the rubble. The story of Billy Pilgrim is the story of Kurt Vonnegut who was captured and survived the firestorm in which 135,000 German civilians perished, more than the number of deaths in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. Robert Scholes sums up the theme of Slaughterhouse Five in the New York Times Book Review, writing: 'Be kind. Don't hurt. Death is coming for all of us anyway, and it is better to be Lot's wife looking back through salty eyes than the Deity that destroyed those cities of the plain in order to save them.' The reviewer concludes that 'Slaughterhouse Five is an extraordinary success. It is a book we need to read, and to reread.' "The popularity of Slaughterhouse Five is due, in part, to its timeliness; it deals with many issues that were vital to the late sixties: war, ecology, overpopulation, and consumerism. Klinkowitz, writing in Literary Subversions.New American Fiction and the Practice of Criticism, sees larger reasons for the book's success: 'Kurt Vonnegut's fiction of the 1960s is the popular artifact which may be the fairest example of American cultural change. . . . Shunned as distastefully low-brow . . . and insufficiently commercial to suit the exploitative tastes of high-power publishers, Vonnegut's fiction limped along for years on the genuinely democratic basis of family magazine and pulp paperback circulation. Then in the late 1960s, as the culture as a whole exploded, Vonnegut was able to write and publish a novel, Slaughterhouse Five, which so perfectly caught America's transformative mood that its story and structure became best-selling metaphors for the new age. '"Writing in Critique, Wayne D. McGinnis comments that in Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut 'avoids framing his story in linear narration, choosing a circular structure.
What is war? Is war a place to kill? Or is it a place where something more than just killing happens? War, as defined by the Merriam Webster is “a state or period of usually open and declared fighting between states or nations.” War, can also be viewed with romantic ideals where heroes and legends are born. Even the most intelligent of us hold some rather naïve notions of war. Upon reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, intelligent readers have been divested of any romantic notions regarding war they may have harboured.
In the novel Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, he talks about World War II and the bombing of Dresden. He writes about this historical event through the character Billy Pilgrim, Billy is drafted into the army at age twenty-one during World War II. He is captured and sent to Luxembourg and then later Dresden as a prisoner. Throughout the novel Vonnegut constantly ridiculous Billy. He describes Billy as a character that has no individualism and no choice in anything that happens in his life. Billy is used to show that everything happens because of fate. As a prisoner Billy has no control over his day to day life. While Billy is in Dresden the city is bombed, because of luck, only Billy and a few others survive the bombing in a slaughterhouse.
Facing an extensive amount of tragedy, Kurt Vonnegut found his place as an influential figure in American literature. In 1943, Vonnegut was transferred to Carnegie Mellon University to study Engineering. This movement took place after he had completed two years of study at Cornell University because he had enlisted in the army near the end of those two years. Having been in the military for only a year, Vonnegut was deployed as one of the soldiers to fight in the Battle of Bulge. During this, he was taken captive. Despite the odds, he survived being a prisoner of war as well as the Dresden Firebombing in 1945 which killed more people than Hiroshima. After the bombing, he was ordered to dig bodies from the rubble and destroy them in huge bonfires. These traumatic years combined with the suicide of his mother on Mother’s Day in 1944 and the loss of his sister to cancer in 1958 took a toll on his emotional state. His writing reflects the effect that these trials had on him. It is not surprising that after writing Slaughterhouse-Five Vonnegut spiraled into a period of depression. During this time, he refused to write any more novels. Instead, he focused on teaching and finishing a play entitled Happy Birthday, Wanda June. Lasting four years, the stage of depression subsided when he wrote his novel Breakfast of Champions. His exposure to the callous side of humanity amplified the effectiveness of his