The Biblical Allusion of Lot's Wife in Slaughterhouse-Five

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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.

The narrator appreciates Lot’s wife deeply because she “looks back” which is what American society fails to do after World War II and, in doing so, fails to recognize their own faults. Rumfoord epitomizes this attitude when he tells Billy, a survivor of the Dresden firebombing, that the bombing of Dresden “had to be done” (253). The diction of ‘had’ and the emphasis placed on it indicates an attitude that America’s obliged to destroy the unarmed, civilian city. Furthermore, ‘done’ has a double meaning in the...

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...and Gomorrah, except that Dresden does not represent inherent evil. Through the biblical reference of Lot’s wife and her role in Sodom and Gomorrah, a critique of war and of the slaughter of the innocent lives is presented in Slaughterhouse-Five. Ultimately, the work creates a dichotomy between the narrator and protagonist, Billy Pilgrim. It emphasizes the narrator’s value on human life and stresses the importance of compassion and being human. Slaughterhouse-Five elucidates the horrors of war and the stagnation it leaves those involved and fails to offer a way forward, but powerfully relishes in the value of human life and the importance being nonviolent.

Work Cited

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

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