Post-War Insanity

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Post-war Insanity

“This is a novel somewhat in the telegraphic schizophrenic manner of

tales of the planet Tralfamadore, where the flying saucers come from.” Insanity is

a major theme in Kurt Vonnegut’s life and in turn his novels tend to be a release

for his thoughts of mental illness. Vonnegut’s characters tend to embody him

or at least characteristics of himself. His characters generally suffer from mild

insanity and therefore hints that Vonnegut himself is possibly mildly insane. In

each of his novels there are characters that are highly related to Vonnegut such

as Kilgore Trout, Billy Pilgrim, and Eliot Rosewater. Each of these characters

appear in different novels to help develop the plot and continue the relative

theme. The theme of insanity is what dominates the novel Slaughterhouse-Five,

and is what ties all aspects of the tale together.

In the novel Slaughterhouse-Five there is a character that is identical to

Vonnegut. His name is Billy Pilgrim. Both were in the American army and

became prisoners of war. Also, they both witnessed the fire-bombing of Dresden,

Germany. “Dresden was destroyed on the night of February 13, 1945,’ Billy

Pilgrim began. ‘We came out of our shelter the next day.” (Slaughterhouse-Five

179) Billy is a thin frail boy who joined the Army so he would become a man, like

the author. ”World War II attracted them both because they realized that it was

an important time in history. With the horrors of war Pilgrim went into quasi-

insane state he’s described as “…bearded … in a blue toga and silver shoes,

with his hands in a muff (Slaughterhouse-Five 149).” This description is after they

got off of a POW train on a “balmy” Dresden day. Vonnegut also has this

character become “unstuck in time” or on a more realistic level, he has

flashbacks, even though Pilgrims flashbacks flash him to the future as well as the

past. His future is to Tralfamadorian Zoo; Tralfamadorians are little green men,

the Tralfamadorians, as a sort of appeasement to his capture, gave Pilgrim a

beautiful wife. This flash-forward was most likely just a science fiction writer’s

fantasy. His real future is as a Ilium, New York optometrist. His unsticking in time

is just a symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. It appears in both Pilgrim

and Vonnegut, and later in Rosewate...

... middle of paper ...

... every death there is in the

novel. On page 210, the first five paragraphs emphasize just how often this quote

is replayed. Also, this quote is showing the removal of Billy from the situation.

Many people would find these occurrences extremely traumatising, but for Billy

he just withdraws from the entire scenario. This enables him to continue life

without dealing with everyday pain and suffering.

Kurt Vonnegut through his three main literary self-portraits vents his

mental illness. Not only does he do that, but also he gives us insightful tid-bits of

knowledge and advice that will help us later in life. His honesty and

straightforward manner help the relieving process for Vonnegut or any author

who uses writing as a catharsis. His need to rejuvenate himself from all his post-

war trauma is a perfect example of a form of insanity. Kurt Vonnegut uses all of

his novels to express all the emotions built up from years of suppression. He

uses the theme of insanity in all of his pieces of works to convey to the public

how he identifies himself. Insanity is the ruling force in Slaughterhouse-Five

and the passage on page 210 is the decisive force in portraying
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