Essay on Kurt Vonnegut 's Slaughterhouse Five

Essay on Kurt Vonnegut 's Slaughterhouse Five

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Imagine experiencing the events of your life in a random order. How would you view your life if it seemed more like a collection of moments rather than a story? In Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy Pilgrim is a chaplain’s assistant during World War II who claims to be "unstuck in time." Billy seemingly jumps from one moment in his life to the next without his control or consent. Billy also believes that aliens, known as Tralfamadorians, abducted him. These events may seem silly considering all of the serious and grim experiences that Billy faces in the war, but they are far from comical. Billy Pilgrim 's time travels and experiences on Tralfamadore are not real experiences, but rather coping mechanisms Billy has created.
Throughout the novel, there is clear evidence that trauma has caused Billy to become mentally unstable. Billy becomes a prisoner of war, witnesses a brutal mass killing, and must clean the destruction of a firebombing. Billy poorly handles the emotional stress of being a soldier throughout his experience. While behind enemy lines, Billy shows little will to survive. When someone is shooting at Billy, he decides to stand still and allow the man to do so. Unlike the other soldiers, Billy has no will to fight and survive. While the other men are tense and alert, Billy "could scarcely distinguish between sleep and wakefulness" (Vonnegut 34). Billy’s trauma is so severe that it affects him mentally, causing Billy to see no point in living. The most concrete and compelling evidence of Billy 's mental instability is seen when Billy is put in a mental hospital because he has a nervous breakdown after returning home from war. His mental fragility clearly indicates the psychological damage the war has inflicted up...


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...about death, Billy can just shrug it off and accept that it was meant to happen (58). The Tralfamadorians’ perception of death is a bandage on his emotional wounds from the war, specifically to the atrocities of Dresden, because those who are killed still continue to exist elsewhere.
Though Billy never truly time travels or goes to Tralfamadore, these events serve as a way of coming to terms with all of the tragic events of his life. The horrific moments in his life make him unstable and make him wish for an existence in a world of fantasy. Billy’s story is filled with shocking and painful events. But perhaps the most shocking and painful thing about his life is that the only way he could cope with his time in Germany was to fabricate a fantasy life in which he could find comfort. That is the unfortunate and all too realistic legacy of the veterans of World War II.

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