Essay on The Catastrophe of War in Slaughterhouse Five

Essay on The Catastrophe of War in Slaughterhouse Five

Length: 1931 words (5.5 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Term Papers

Open Document

Essay Preview

The Catastrophe of War in Slaughterhouse-Five

     Russian Prime Minister Joseph Stalin once said, “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.” The impersonalization of war and death that he shares is an realistic characterization of war; originally intending to improve the lives of people, yet inevitably leading to the destruction of human life. Author Kurt Vonnegut endorses this view in his novel Slaughterhouse-Five; he shows that war can never be justified as long as innocent life is lost. Throughout Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut explores the theme of free will in order to illustrate the absurdity of war. Vonnegut conveys this through setting, characters, structure, and style.

     Vonnegut uses setting to convey the terrors of war by juxtaposing the hell-like Dresden with the heavenly Trafalmador. After the firebombing of Dresden, when the soldiers emerge out of a slaughterhouse, they find the entire city desolate and destroyed. As the soldiers wander out of the slaughterhouse, Vonnegut writes, “One thing was clear: Absolutely everybody in the city was supposed to be dead, regardless of what they were, and that anybody that moved represented a flaw in the design. There were to be no moon men at all. 135,000 civilians are killed in the raid, almost twice the number who would later die at Hiroshima” (Vonnegut 180). While in Dresden, the soldiers were surrounded by death, and even rode in a “coffin-shaped green wagon” (Vonnegut 194) through the ruins. The Dresden firebombing also exemplifies the absurdity of war because Dresden was an open city with no military significance, yet the Allies decided to bomb it anyways. In contrast with Dresden, while held captive on the far-off planet of Tralfamador, Billy Pilgrim lives an ideal life, in which he is sleeping with a beautiful movie star. Also, the Tralfamadorian view on free will releases Billy from any guilt he felt about the war. When describing wars, one Tralfamadorian claims, “There isn’t anything we can do about them, so we simply don’t look at them. We ignore them. We spend eternity looking at pleasant moments-like today at the zoo” (Vonnegut 117). While on Tralfamador, Billy lives in a dream world in which he only looks at pleasant moments and forgets about all of the horrible events of his life. Vonnegut uses the blissful Tralfamador in order to contrast and accentuate the ho...

... middle of paper ...

...selves of the idea that war is inevitable. Structurally, he uses a non-chronological organization in order to parallel the disorderly nature of war. Also, Vonnegut narrates the story in order to come to terms with his own war history. Finally, he utilizes a straightforward style and black humor in order to express the irrationality of war. Vonnegut’s beliefs are fairly easy to pull from his works; what is unique about him is that he took social protest to new heights. His work had a definite and lasting impact on the world's perception of war, and forced readers to question the justification behind the actions of themselves and their nations.

Works Cited Page

Cox, F. Brett. “Criticism: Essay.” Novels for Students. Ed. Diane Telgen and Kevin Hile.
     Vol 2. Detroit: Gale, 1998. 270-272.

Harris, Charles B. “Criticism:Essay.” Novels for Students. Ed. Diane Telgen and Kevin
     Hile. Vol 2. Detroit: Gale, 1998. 272-274.

Reed, Peter J. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. New York: Warner, 1972.

“Slaughterhouse-Five.” Novels for Students. Ed. Diane Telgen and Kevin Hile. Vol. 2.
     Detroit:Gale, 1998. 258-277.

Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five. New York: Dell, 1969.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on Why Slaughterhouse-Five Is an Anti-War Novel

- Slaughterhouse-Five displays many themes. However, there is a dispute as to whether the book is an anti-war novel or not. Slaughterhouse-Five, the character Kurt Vonnegut explains to Mary O’Hare, is intended to be an anti-war novel, and he says that it shall also be called The Children’s Crusade because of the effect it had on young men who fought in the war. Slaughterhouse-Five is an anti-war novel because Vonnegut, the character, says it is in the first chapter, because it depicts the terrible long-term effects the war has on Billy, and because it exposes war's devastating practices....   [tags: slaughterhouse five, anti war, kurt vunnegut]

Term Papers
659 words (1.9 pages)

Essay on Slaughterhouse Five Are Obvious And Piercing As One

- Kurt Vonnegut’s anti-war novel, Slaughterhouse Five, illustrates the ghastly experiences within World War II and the journey through the universe and time of the main character, Billy Pilgrim. Although war is a sensitive subject in most cases, Vonnegut’s sarcastic twist mixed with his dark humor on the matter helps bring light to the fact that war is horrendous and can change people down to their core self. Slaughterhouse Five demonstrates the reality of war throughout its major themes, historical accuracy, and Kurt Vonnegut’s personal experiences within World War II that shines light on the horrendous acts of war that has plagued an abundant amount of countries for centuries....   [tags: Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut]

Term Papers
1158 words (3.3 pages)

Essay on Slaughterhouse Five Is Different From Most

- ​The novel Slaughterhouse-Five is different from most, due to the lack of chronological order in the narration. The narrator kicks off the book by discussing his timely desire to write about his experience in Dresden back in World War Two. However he has already spent countless hours writing thousands of pages on this puzzling topic, which have all been discarded. In order to fulfill his wish of completing such novel, he then calls his old war buddy, Bernard V. O’Hare. After agreeing to get together with the intentions of remembering their days in Dresden, the story begins....   [tags: Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five, World War II]

Term Papers
1610 words (4.6 pages)

Analysis Of The Book ' Slaughterhouse Five ' Essay

- Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is quoted saying, “The trouble with me is that I’m an outsider. And that’s a very hard thing to be…” At one point or another everyone has felt like an outsider in his or her life. In the novel Slaughterhouse Five Billy Pilgrim suffers from feeling like an outsider a great deal as he struggles with his PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). From a Marxist Critic’s standpoint a lot of his struggles may also be due to his social and economic class. From being treated like an animal while he was a prisoner of war to coming home and practically being handed more money than he knew what to do with, Billy didn’t know how to cope....   [tags: Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut]

Term Papers
755 words (2.2 pages)

Essay about Slaughterhouse Five By Kurt Vonnegut

- Slaughterhouse-Five, written by Kurt Vonnegut, is an anti-war book about the firebombing of Dresden, which the author witnessed in World War II. In the book, the reader is introduced with the main character Billy Pilgrim, who seems to have come "unstuck in time," rendering him the ability to travel or relive the past, present, and future (Vonnegut). Billy learns later on, from an alien race named the Tralfamadorians, that all time exists simultaneously. Vonnegut begins the book, however, with anecdotes from when he was just starting to write the book and how writing it led him to develop new ideas on war....   [tags: Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut]

Term Papers
2023 words (5.8 pages)

Slaughterhouse-Five and the Psychological Consequences of War Essay

- “How nice- to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive” (Vonnegut 181). In Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five the main character Billy Pilgrim experiences few emotions during his time in World War II. His responses to people and events lack intensity or passion. Throughout the novel Billy describes his time travel to different moments in his life, including his experience with the creatures of Tralfamadore and the bombing of Dresden. He wishes to die during most of the novel and is unable to connect with almost anyone on Earth....   [tags: Slaughterhouse-Five Essays]

Free Essays
1382 words (3.9 pages)

Slaughterhouse-Five Essay: Three Themes of Slaughterhouse-Five

- 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....   [tags: Slaughterhouse-Five Essays]

Term Papers
938 words (2.7 pages)

The Theme of Time in Slaughterhouse-Five Essay

- The Theme of Time in Slaughterhouse-Five Many writers in history have written science fiction novels and had great success with them, but only a few have been as enduring over time as Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. Slaughterhouse-Five is a personal novel which draws upon Vonnegut's experience's as a scout in World War Two, his capture and becoming a prisoner of war, and his witnessing of the fire bombing of Dresden in February of 1945 (the greatest man-caused massacre in history). The novel is about the life and times of a World War Two veteran named Billy Pilgrim....   [tags: Slaughterhouse-Five Essays]

Term Papers
1071 words (3.1 pages)

The Use of Fragmentation in Slaughterhouse-Five Essay

- The Use of Fragmentation in Slaughterhouse-Five In the novel Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut uses fragmentation of time, structure and character in order to unify his non-linear narrative. Vonnegut's main character, Billy Pilgrim, travels back and forth in his own life span "paying random visits to all events in between" (SF 23). The result is Billy's life is presented as a series of episodes without any chronological obligations. This mirrors the structure of the novel which has a beginning, middle and end but not in their traditional places....   [tags: Slaughterhouse-Five Essays]

Free Essays
1478 words (4.2 pages)

The Themes of Slaughterhouse-Five Essay

- The Themes of Slaughterhouse-Five The moral of "Slaughterhouse-Five" is whatever you want it to be. That is the beauty of the book. However, in his typically dark, sarcastic way, Kurt Vonnegut gives us several possible themes to explore. One of the themes relates to the way in which Mr. Vonnegut presents the human life span. Through his writing, Mr. Vonnegut poses an ancient question: Are we masters of our destiny, or are we simply pawns of fate. The medium through which Mr. Vonnegut presents this riddle is death....   [tags: Slaughterhouse-Five Essays]

Free Essays
910 words (2.6 pages)