Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five -- A Great American Novel

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For a novel to be considered a Great American Novel, it must contain a theme that is uniquely American, a hero that is the essence of a great American, or relevance to the American people. Others argue, however, that the Great American Novel may never exist. They say that America and her image are constantly changing and therefore, there will never be a novel that can represent the country in its entirety. In his novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut writes about war and its destructiveness. Vonnegut tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, an unlikely hero, mentally scarred by World War Two. Kurt Vonnegut explains how war is so devastating it can ruin a person forever. These are topics that are reoccurring in American history and have a relevance to the American people thus making Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five a Great American Novel. After serving in World War Two, Kurt Vonnegut wrote Slaughterhouse-Five about his experiences through Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist in the novel. Slaughterhouse-Five is a dark novel about war and death. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental disease that inflicts people who endured a traumatic event. Some of the common symptoms include flashbacks and creating alternate worlds which Billy Pilgrim experienced various times throughout Slaughterhouse-Five. Billy Pilgrim believes he has become “unstuck in time” (Vonnegut 29) and travels to different moments throughout his life. Pilgrim is never in one event for long and his flashbacks are triggered by almost everything he does. While his “time-traveling” is sporadic and never to a relevant time, all of Billy Pilgrims flashbacks are connected through actions done in each of the visions. Perhaps the most important flashback occurred at ... ... middle of paper ... ...title “Great American Novel” has been the center of a heated debate for many years. While many of the novels that are debated may never be fully accepted as a Great American Novel, I believe that Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, can be an exception. Slaughterhouse-Five tells of the destruction and after-effects of war on an unlikely hero, Billy Pilgrim. Many veterans can relate to Billy Pilgrims experiences both during and after the war which makes the novel relevant to the American people. Billy Pilgrim can also be seen as a hero to veterans because of his ability to overcome his mental state and be able to go back to civilian life and be able to conform to society. Because Slaughterhouse-Five addresses topics that have occurred in the past, are currently occurring, and will occur in the future, the novel should be considered a Great American Novel.
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