Slaughterhouse Five By Kurt Vonnegut Essay

Slaughterhouse Five By Kurt Vonnegut Essay

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Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut is an anti-war historical fiction novel about the bombings of Dresden, Germany in 1945 at the end of World War II. Slaughterhouse-Five succeeds as a historical fiction novel because it is fictional and imaginative but also set in the past, rooted in factual information about that time period and the events that took place in Dresden. Much of the historical information in Slaughterhouse-Five is considered eye-witness information because the novel is semi-autobiographical because Kurt Vonnegut was a prisoner of war in Dresden and he also survived the fire bombings. Vonnegut’s historical fiction novel is unique in its genre because the focus is on the effect of surviving the bombing of Dresden rather than explaining how many planes attacked, what their formation was, and how many tons of explosives were used. These details are important but Vonnegut wrote Slaughterhouse-Five during the Vietnam war, so the effect of war on the mind of a soldier was far more important than going into detail about actual events.
The protagonist of Vonnegut’s historical fiction novel, Billy Pilgrim, was an unarmed chaplain’s assistant when he arrived in Germany. Billy was soon captured by the Germans and held as a prisoner of war in a slaughterhouse, sixty feet underground. Billy and the other prisoners of war are some of the only survivors of the bombing of Dresden in Germany. A few days after the bombings, Billy and the other prisoners of war are forced to clean up the bodies of civilians who were killed in the bombings. Billy describes the destruction of Dresden figuratively: “the sun was an angry little pinhead. Dresden was like the moon now, nothing but minerals” (Vonnegut, 227). Billy cannot look directly at th...


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...es of war can be on the mind of one soldier. Consequently, Vonnegut’s novel is more about the effect of the Dresden bombings than a focus on the accurate depiction of what actually happened. Vonnegut gives no reasons why the bombing happened, and he gives little context to the fire bombings of Dresden in World War II. If Slaughterhouse-Five was the only contact point a reader had with the destruction of Dresden, they would finish the book with a biased and incomplete picture of the actual event. While Slaughterhouse-Five is a powerful anti-war novel and helpful in understanding the effects that war can have on the mind of a soldier, it gives little concrete and direct information about the actual bombings of Dresden. The only information about the destruction is figurative and evasive due to the trauma it caused for Billy Pilgrim and other witnesses of the atrocity.

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