The Allied firebombing of Dresden has been called the worst and most unnecessary air raid in military history. The German city was home to no military bases or stations, but on February 13, 1945, death rained down from the air on nearly 135,000 people, most of them civilians, compared to the 74,000 deaths caused by the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima (Novels 270). Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was a Allied prisoner of war during this raid, hidden underground in an abandoned slaughterhouse. After surviving the war, Vonnegut came home to the United States to become an author. Though he had published several books before Slaughterhouse Five, this book became his most famous and best-selling book. Slaughterhouse Five was Vonnegut's breakthrough work because he finally addressed the most distressing and pivotal point in his life, the Dresden firebombing (Novels 270).
Vonnegut writes in the first chapter that he was once given advice against writing an anti-war novel, because "...there would always be wars, [and] that they were as easy to stop as glaciers" (Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse 3). However, rather than writing an anti-war novel, Vonnegut writes a response to the tragedy of war through the eyes of a soldier (Novels 272). Vonnegut narrates the story of Billy Pilgrim, a soldier who went through the same experiences as Vonnegut did. Narrating the story of someone else allows Vonnegut distance and separation from the painful events at Dresden (Harris). Through Billy's story, Vonnegut introduces opposing ideas throughout his novel, creating tension between conflicting forces and philosophies. The opposing ideas in Slaughterhouse Five are differing views of time, and inco...
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...s, it is the one that states war is stupid, pointless, and cruel, yet it is inevitable.
Harris, Charles B., "Time, Uncertainty, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr.: A Reading of 'Slaughterhouse Five,'" Farmington Hills: Gale Group. October, 2001. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/DC/
Reed, Peter J., "Authenticity and Relevance: Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five," Farmington Hills: Gale Group. October, 2001. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/DC/
Schatt, Stanley, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Farmington Hills: Gale Group. October, 2001. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/DC/
"Slaughterhouse Five" Novels For Students. Vol. 3 1998 ed.
Vonnegut Jr., Kurt. Fates Worse Than Death. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1991
---, Palm Sunday. New York: Delacorte Press, 1981
---, Slaughterhouse Five. New York: Dell Publishing, 1969
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