preview

The Poweful Message of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five

Powerful Essays
The Poweful Message of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five

From Ancient Greek playwright, Euripides, ("To die is a debt we must all of us discharge" (Fitzhenry 122)) to renowned Nineteenth Century poet, Emily Dickinson, ("Because I could not stop for Death/ He kindly stopped for me -/ The carriage held but just ourselves/ And Immortality" (Fitzhenry 126)) the concept of death, reincarnation, rebirth, and mourning have been brooded over time and time again. And with no definite answers to life's most puzzling question of death being given, it only seems natural that this subject is further explored. Kurt Vonnegut is one of many modern writers obsessed with this idea and spends many of his novels thematically infatuated with death. His semi- autobiographical novel, dealing with his experiences in Dresden during WWII, named Slaughterhouse Five, The Children's Crusade or A Duty Dance With Death, is no exception to his fixation. "A work of transparent simplicity [and] a modern allegory, whose hero, Billy Pilgrim, shuffles between Earth and its timeless surrogate, Tralfamadore" (Riley and Harte 452), Slaughterhouse Five shows a "sympathetic and compassionate evaluation of Billy's response to the cruelty of life" (Bryfonski and Senick 614). This cruelty stems from death, time, renewal, war, and the lack of compassion for human life; all large themes "inextricably bound up" (Bryfonski and Mendelson 529) in this cyclically natured novel that tries to solve the great mystery of death for us, once and for all.

Billy's life had revolved around these ideas from the time he was a child. At the age of twelve Billy "had undergone the real crises of his life, had found life meaningless even if he could not then articulate that concept, an...

... middle of paper ...

...Vol. 12. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1980.

Bryfonski and Phyllis Carmel Mendelson, eds. "Kurt Vonnegut, Jr." Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 8. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1978.

Fitzhenry, Robert I., ed. The Harper Book of Quotations. New York City: Harper Collins Publishers, 1993.

Gurton and Jean C. Stine, eds. "Kurt Vonnegut, Jr." Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 22. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1982.

Riley and Barbara Harte, eds. "Kurt Vonnegut, Jr." Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1974.

Riley, Carolyn, ed. "Kurt Vonnegut, Jr." Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 3. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1975.

Shepard, Sean. "Kurt Vonnegut and Slaughterhouse Five." http://erme.bgsu.edu/~jdowell/kvandsh5.html

Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse Five. New York City: Laurel Books, 1969.
Get Access