In his article “The Sixties and Protest Music”, Kerry Candaele states that “music has always kept company with American wars”, and the world of Slaughterhouse-Five is no exception. Throughout the book, the narrator tells the reader stories about Billy Pilgrim’s experiences with war. There are two particularly memorable instances that the reader that are both tied to music. These scenes have many similarities, including their use of Pilgrim’s anger toward war and his acceptance of it accompanied with some type of music. There are several differences between the two, as well; like Pilgrim’s emotions being caused by music in one, and accompanied by it in the other.
The first scene that showcases Billy Pilgrim’s ambivalent emotions regarding war is on page forty-four, after he’s come unstuck in time for the very first time and goes back to when his father is teaching him to swim by throwing him into the deep end of the Ilium YMCA pool. Pilgrim describes this as “ . . . like an execution” (Vonnegut, 44). He finds himself sinking to the bottom of the pool, and notices that there is “beautiful music...
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...o help Billy Pilgrim deal with his ambivalent emotions regarding war. In one, he must come to terms with the fact that war has taken so much from him, and that war is unavoidable. Nearly drowning, and hearing the beautiful music, mirrored his experience with war. It helped Pilgrim to see just how resentful he was of something that couldn’t be avoided. In the other, he must come to terms with the fact that was has also taken from others, as well – something I do not believe he realized before. The Four-eyed Bastards song helps him to remember Dresden, and the guards. From this remembrance, he realizes that everyone is hurt by war. Music plays the role of comforter and teacher in these instances, and both are immensely helpful to Pilgrim at each time. Music is used throughout to give him clarity, and provide a way for him to understand his tremendously mixed emotions.
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