The Three Themes of Slaughterhouse-Five
Kurt Vonnegut did a great job in writing an irresistible reading novel in which one is not permitted to laugh, and yet still be a sad book without tears. Slaughterhouse-five was copyrighted in 1969 and is a book about the 1945 firebombing in Dresden which had killed 135,000 people. The main character is Billy Pilgrim, a very young infantry scout who is captured in the Battle of the Bulge and quartered to a slaughterhouse where he and other soldiers are held. The rest of the novel is about Billy and his encounters with the war, his wife, his life on earth, and on the planet Tralfamador.
There are 3 themes in the novel Slaughterhouse-Five, that stick in the readers mind as they read through this novel. Perhaps the most obvious theme in Slaughterhouse-Five, is the war and its contrast with love, beauty, humanity, innocence, etc. Vonnegut manages to tell the reader in Slaughterhouse-Five, that war is bad for human kind and that it would be better for people to love one another. To find the war's contrast with love is quite difficult, because the book doesn't talk about any couple that was cruelly torn apart by the war. For example, Billy didn't seem to love his wife very much. Vonnegut expresses it very lightly and uses the word "love" very rarely. Yet when he does, he uses it effectively. He tries to look for love and beauty in things that seemingly are neither lovely nor beautiful. For example, when Billy was captured by the group of Germans, he didn't see them as a cruel enemy, but as normal, innocent people:
"Billy looked up at the face that went with the clogs. It was the face of a blond angel, of a fifteen-year-old boy. The boy was as beautiful as Eve" (...
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...e eyes of Tralfamadorians:
"When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in the particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is 'So it goes,'"
Even with the contrast and the differences between these three themes, Vonnegut makes them all mesh in this novel. If Slaughterhouse- Five was the first novel the reader has ever read, they would appreciate this style of writing and black humor that Vonnegut portrays throughout Slaughterhouse- Five. It would make the reader wish that they would have discovered him earlier and read his books long before now.
Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. Slaughterhouse-five. NewYork: Dell Publishing Co. 1969.
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