Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five

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Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five

Great artists have the ability to step back from society and see the absurd circus that their world has become. Such satirists use their creative work to reveal the comic elements of an absurd world and incite a change in society; examples include Stanley Kubrick’s film, Dr. Strangelove, and Joseph Heller’s novel, Catch-22. Both works rose above their more serious counterparts to capture the critical voice of a generation dissatisfied with a nation of warmongers. Completing this triumvirate of anti-war classics is Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. Infusing his social commentary with science fiction, satire, bizarre characters, and the problem of death, Vonnegut creates one of the most effective arguments against war in the American canon of literature.

The life of Kurt Vonnegut began on November 11, 1922 in Indiana. He aged and entered school, picking up an affinity for the written word while editing his high school paper (Klinkowitz, “Chronology” 3). As he grew up, Vonnegut faced a nation rapidly changing under the burdens of the Depression. This economic disaster harmed Vonnegut’s family as well, causing his parents to make countless sacrifices to keep their family from crumbling under the pressure (Klinkowitz, “America” 8). Vonnegut survived the Depression to enroll at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where he majored in chemistry and biology. Three years into school he enlisted in the United States Army and fought in World War II. One year later Germans captured Vonnegut and held him as a prisoner of war in Dresden. He lived in this city for less than half a year before he survived the “boundless” “destruction” (Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five 22) caused by the D...

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...uarterly 103 (1998): 17.

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.” Studies in Contemporary Fiction 45 (Spring 2004): 261-271. Infotrac Onefile. 28 Oct. 2004. <http://web6.infotrac.galegroup.com>.

Tanner, Tony. “The Uncertain Messenger: A Reading of Slaughterhouse-Five.” Merrill 125-130.

Vees-Gulani, Susanne. “Diagnosing Billy Pilgrim: A Psychiatric Approach to Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.” Studies in Contemporary Fiction 44 (Winter 2003): 175-184. Infotrac Onefile. 28 Oct. 2004. <http://web6.infotrac.galegroup.com>.

Vonnegut, Kurt. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater or Pearls Before Swine. New York, NY: Dell Publishing, 1965.

---. Slaughterhouse-Five. New York, NY: Delta Fiction, 1969.
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