Essay about Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Essay about Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

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A man begins to cry. Not because of sorrow or joy, but because he’s terrified. The man who once enjoyed viewing the firework show that symbolized the freedom of his nation now cowers, because of the hardships he endured to maintain the freedom of his nation. Like many war veterans, the man suffers from PTSD. Billy Pilgrim, a WWII veteran, also suffers from PTSD. While Kurt Vonnegut wrote his novel Slaughterhouse-five before PTSD became an official diagnosis, the protagonist of his story, Billy Pilgrim, displays the disease’s symptoms. Vonnegut uses Billy Pilgrim’s non-linear voyage through time as symbol to reflect his theme of the destructiveness during and after war.
Like most suffers of PTSD, Billy struggles with certain experiences. Yet his turmoil manifest itself as time travel, and Billy’s time travel through those experiences is a symbol for his inability to cope. Billy has his first experience with time travel while he is being shot at. Up until this point of the novel the time line had been linear so in order to cope Billy imagines the first time he was ever truly terrified, but instead of recognizing it as just a memory Billy attributes it to time travel (Vonnegut 43). He is never described as being mentally unsound prior to being in the war, yet coming out of it he begins to time travel frequently and is admitted into a mental institution. The war transformed a simple man from Ilium, New York into a passive participant of his life. His life after his initial encounter with time travel is devoid of any real stability, and while the novel focuses on him, a sense of instability and a lack of certainty is a wide spread sentiment to anyone who encounters a war. The war doesn’t simply disappear after a treaty is sign...


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...terary career, but it also gives analysis of his most famous works including Slaughterhouse-Five. Since Vonnegut is a narrator of the book and his experience heavily influenced the novel, I thought it was important to look at his life and how it affected the novel.
Vees-Gulani, Susanne. "Diagnosing Billy Pilgrim: A Psychiatric Approach to Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five." CRITIQUE: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 44.2 (2003): 175+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 17 Feb. 2014. Vees-Gulani uses medical journals and works by other doctors to diagnose Billy Pilgrim with PTSD. While she isn’t a doctor, she provides an adequate amount of evidence that supports her idea. This essay ties in directly to my topic and I plan to use it as another way to link Slaughterhouse-five to PTSD.
Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five. 1969. New York: Dell Publishing, 1991. Print.



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