War and Heroism in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five

780 Words2 Pages

What is war? Is war a place to kill? Or is it a place where something more than just killing happens? War, as defined by the Merriam Webster is “a state or period of usually open and declared fighting between states or nations.” War, can also be viewed with romantic ideals where heroes and legends are born. Even the most intelligent of us hold some rather naïve notions of war. Upon reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, intelligent readers have been divested of any romantic notions regarding war they may have harboured.

In Slaughterhouse Five the reader is encouraged to show contempt for war and to abandon all hopes of thinking war as a place where deeds of heroism are and bravery are performed. A character in the novel, Roland Weary, seems to think the very opposite of what Vonnegut is trying to communicate in the novel. He sees war as an adventure, a time for exploration, not as a time where horrible atrocities are committed and where massacres take place. Even army personnel turn on each other. Billy Pilgrim who is being beaten by Roland Weary is saved from death, ironically, when a German patrol finds him. Another bunch of characters that seem to ‘mistake’ war as something fun is the English officers at the POW camp. In the words of Vonnegut, “they made war look stylish, reasonable and fun.” Another interesting thing that Vonnegut does is that he frequently uses the phrase “So it goes,” after every death or mention of dying in the novel. He uses the phrase very often, and after a certain amount of time, it begins to remind the reader that the reader is powerless to stop all the killing that is going on.

Vonnegut uses irony very often to strengthen the readers’ contempt for war. Edgar Derby, the well-liked high sc...

... middle of paper ...

...me soldiers refuse to fire a shot due to the great personal conflict within them to kill another human being. Normal human beings cannot kill in cold blood. Normal human beings usually can’t even think about killing somebody. To not feel remorse after killing a fellow human being would be inhuman.

Slaughterhouse Five is not a book that should be glanced over and discarded away like a dirty rag. Slaughterhouse Five is a book that should be carefully analyzed and be seen as an inspiration to further improve the well-being of mankind. Vonnegut makes it clear that an easy way to improve mankind is to see war not as a place where legends are born, but rather, an event to be avoided. Intelligent readers and critics alike should recognize Vonnegut’s work and see to it that they make an effort to understand the complexities behind the human condition that lead us to war.

Open Document