Slaughterhouse Five

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., was written as a general statement against all wars. The novel canbe divided into several distinct stories all combined to convey one theme. The major theme focuses around thecentral character of Billy Pilgrim before, during, and after the war.

Vonnegut himself plays a major role in thenovel as narrator and witness of World War II. The difficulties in the writing of the actual novel itself are alsoexamined in the novel. All of these issues revolve around the main theme of the novel– the shock and outrageover the havoc and destruction man is capable of wreaking in the name of what he labels a worthy cause (Schatt 84). The novel also deals with learning to understand and accept these horrors and one s feelings aboutthem.Vonnegut had tremendous difficulty writing this novel. He says, I thought it would be easy for me to writeabout the destruction of Dresden, since all I would have to do would be to report what I had seen (2). He didnot count on his emotions interfering with his attempts at a factual and logical report of such atrocities. It tookVonnegut twenty years to directly face his private demon of the firebombing of Dresden in the form of thisnovel (Lundquist 48).

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He had trouble recalling any memories of substance about his time in Dresden. It couldbe said that he was blinded by the fire-bombs of Dresden. It was not until Vonnegut returned to the sight ofthe bombing twenty years later, along with one of his war buddies, that he was able to recall the humorous andhorrific incidents in Dresden. The novel served as a form of therapy for Vonnegut. It enabled him to examinethe events of the past that impacted on his life and to come to terms with them. Slaughterhouse-Five takes place during World War II.

Vonnegut chooses to focus the novel on eventssurrounding the fire-bombing of Dresden, Germany. As James Lundquist explains:The bombing of Dresden was a surprise raid. It wasn t expected because the city was militarily unimportant.The population of the city had been doubled by prisoners-of-war and refugees.

On February thirteenth, 1944,American bombers dropped high-explosive bombs followed by incendiaries which caused a firestorm thatcould be seen more than two-hundred miles away. On February fourteenth, the Americans carried out asecond raid which completed the destruction of the city. More that two-hundred thousand people were killedoutright, burned to death, or died after. Vonnegut and Billy Pilgrim were herded with other prisoners-of-warinto the storage area of a slaughterhouse and later emerged to find the once beautiful city looking like thesurface of the moon. (47)As Vonnegut reexamines the bombing of Dresden, he relates the event in a way that shows the reader hispersonal view of the incident. He confronts the Dresden experience with compassion and sorrow rather thananger, bitterness or pain.

He sees the madness and cruelty of the world epitomized in the blasting of the city(Reed 503). Vonnegut feels special anguish over the bombing because of his situation of being under attack byhis own forces and sharing the sufferings of his enemies (Reed 494).Billy Pilgrim s character is also greatly affected by the war and by Dresden. Vonnegut tells the story of thebombing with a day in the life format.

He relays most of the emotionally difficult facts through Billy, theinnocent babe thrust into violent and chaotic times. In this manner, Vonnegut does not have to directly confronthis own emotions on these issues but can portray his own feelings through the facade of Billy. Vonnegutdescribes Billy as becoming unstuck in time (Vonnegut 23). Billy blurs fact and fiction because he suspects thathis vision of reality is hardly reliable. He cannot accept that human nature would allow such an occurrence asDresden to take place and therefore concludes that his perception of reality must be totally wrong. He seeshimself drifting from dream to reality and back again. In this way, he is able to pass off any bad experiences inhis life, including Dresden, as a terrible nightmare and not a part of reality. Billy refuses to accept the traditionalconcept of time (Lundquist 19).

Vonnegut also has difficulty accepting the constraints of time and often lives inthe past, calling up old girlfriends and remembering the good ol days. Vonnegut writes, . . .

my wife asks mewhat time it is. She always has to know the time. Sometimes I don t know, and I say, Search me (Vonnegut7). After witnessing to the war and Dresden, both Billy and Vonnegut try to rationalize and understand what theyhave been through.

Billy does this through his time-traveling and visits to the planet Tralfamadore. Billyimagines the planet Tralfamadore where he is whisked off to by aliens. Billy is trying to make sense out of whathe has witnessed at Dresden and give order to the disorder of the universe. He wants life to make sense(Lundquist 17). On Tralfamadore, he is exposed to the Tralfamadorian philosophy on life. Their philosophystates that all time is all time.

It does not change. It simply is. All moments exist in time simultaneously andforever. One cannot change the past or the future because they already and always exist. (Lundquist 51-52)Billy learns that the best philosophy is to enjoy the good moments and ignore the bad ones. TheTralfamadorians do not understand Billy s concern about finding a cure for the wars on Earth that result in thebombing of Dresden. They know that it is all inevitable and unchangeable. Free will is a uniquely humanconcept (Schatt 82).

The Tralfamadorians know that it does not truly exist. Billy’s trip to Tralfamadore allowshim to examine the human race as a whole from afar. The Tralfamadorians see the futility in trying to overcomehuman depravity because it is the only constant available in this chaotic universe (Boyce 7018). Billy comes to adopt Tralfamadorian philosophy.

He continues on his time-travels and manages to rescuehimself and his personal sanity through the works of his own imagination. His time-travels and trips toTralfamadore serve as a rationalizing fantasy. He reinvents himself and his universe so that he can go on living.He is so unhinged by what happens to him in the war.

He invents the Tralfamadorians to blame his madness onthem and make his time-travels agree with their version of reality. At least it is some version of reality(Lundquist 53-54). In this way, Billy rationalizes his strange mind games and forms this timelessness whichenables him to look upon time as a whole and criticize the universe in one timeless moment (Boyce 7017). Vonnegut also tries to rationalize and come to terms with the horrors that he has been a witness to.

He, likeBilly, is torn between the desire to forget Dresden and his obsession with finding a way to reconcile the humansuffering he observed there (Schatt 86). In an introduction to the novel, Vonnegut makes a comparison of theburning of Dresden to the Biblical destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. He describes a scene where he looksthrough a Gideon Bible in his motel room for tales of great destruction and he comes to the story of Sodomand Gomorrah. G-d rained fire and brimstone on the two cities:Lot s wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she didlook back, and I love her for that, because it was so human. So she was turned into a pillar of salt .

. . Peoplearen t supposed to look back. I m certainly not going to do it anymore . . . This novel is a failure, and had tobe, since it was written by a pillar of salt.

(Vonnegut 21-22)Vonnegut claims that he too was turned into a pillar of salt looking back at Dresden, because of his mistake oftrying to account for what had happened. He, as a participant, can never gain the cosmic view that wouldenable him to understand (Lundquist 75). Nonetheless, Vonnegut tries to find order and logic in what he has experienced. On his revisiting of Dresden, acab driver who took him back to the slaughterhouse relays holiday wishes to Vonnegut . .

. to meet again in aworld of peace . .

. if the accident will (Vonnegut 2). Vonnegut would like to find rational and significance inwhat happened in Dresden, but after all, it all comes down to a series of accidents (Lundquist 49). Throughoutthe novel, Vonnegut follows all accounts of tragic events with So it goes. When Vonnegut writes aboutDresden school girls boiled alive in a water tower, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., or the VietnamWar, all are followed by the phrase So it goes (Vonnegut 210). In accordance with Tralfamadorianphilosophy, Vonnegut tries to gloss over unpleasant times and concentrate on good ones.

This is part of thereason why he had so much difficulty recalling events of significance that could be put into his novel. He choseto forget the unpleasant events of the war and could only remember humorous anecdotes. He explains hisexperiences by making light of them.The novel cannot help but draw the attention of the reader to the underlying theme of man s cruelty. Vonnegutwrites:I think the climax of the book will be the execution of poor old Edgar Derby…The irony is so great.

A wholecity gets burned down, and thousands of people are killed. And then this one American foot soldier is arrestedin the ruins for taking a teapot. And he s given a regular trial, and then he’s shot by a firing squad. (4-5)Vonnegut finds it very difficult to understand how a world can exist where a massacre of human life can go byunpunished while the same world will find a man guilty and deserving of death for plundering a mere teapot. The second title of the novel indicates Vonnegut s purpose for his writing.

He intended Slaughterhouse-Five tobe an anti-war novel. The title The Children s Crusade shows how Vonnegut feels that all wars are fought bythe young – usually for causes that they are incapable of comprehending (Schatt 82). Vonnegut commented onhow most of the men involved in the war were little more than children, foolish virgins in the war, right at theend of childhood (14). He writes this novel so that war does not look wonderful, and so we do not have manymore of them, and they will not be fought by babies such as they were back in Dresden (Vonnegut 15).

Throughout the course of the novel, Vonnegut attempts to adopt the Tralfamadorian philosophy of life thatwould makes it painless for him to describe the fire-bombing of Dresden and Billy s suffering in a cold,detached, objective manner ( Schatt 85). In the final chapter of the novel, Vonnegut speculates on whether ornot he can accept such a view of life. Vonnegut comments:If what Billy Pilgrim learned from the Tralfamadorians is true, that we will all live forever, no matter how deadwe may sometimes seem to be, that events in time exist simultaneously and forever, I am not overjoyed. Still-if I am going to spend eternity visiting this moment and that, I m grateful that so many of those moments arenice. (211)Vonnegut is being totally sarcastic as he has just completed writing about one of the worst events in his life -the bombing of Dresden (Lundquist 51-52). If we live forever, so too will the fire-bombing of Dresden go onforever. Ultimately, Vonnegut does not agree that his and Billy s attempts to forget the terrible moments in their livesare the correct way to face what they ve been through.

He states, I honestly believe, though, that we arewrong to think that moments go away never to be seen again. This moment and every moment lasts forever(Lundquist 53). Vonnegut knows that he cannot avoid events in his life simply because they are disagreeableto him, yet he still does not say whether or not people can control life or if as the Tralfamadorians believe,there is no such thing as free will. Vonnegut debates this concept from the outset of the novel when he tells afriend that he is writing an anti-war book. His friend asks, You know what I say to people when I hear they rewriting anti-war books? . .

. I say, Why don t you write an anti-glacier book instead? Vonnegut responds,What he meant, of course, was to say that there would always be wars, that they were as easy to stop asglaciers. I believe that, too. And even if wars didn t keep coming like glaciers, there would still be plain olddeath (3-4).

Vonnegut toys with the idea that war is inevitable, but he still leaves the possibility that wars canbe stopped. He still knows that death is unavoidable. Vonnegut ultimately rejects the Tralfamadorian theory of life that is so prevalent throughout the novel. Heknows that he will never understand man s cruelty, but he does know that it is not inevitable. He knows that itcan be stopped. He knows that one day the world will stop sending its babies off to fight and that constantwar is not the fate of the universe. A prayer in the novel that is stated both in Billy s Tralfamadorian world, aswell as in his real world goes as follows:G-d grant methe serenity to accept the things I cannot change,courage to change the things I can, and wisdom always to tell the difference. (60, 209)This prayer epitomizes Vonnegut s message to his readers.

Parts of life are inevitable and must be accepted,but many parts of life can and must be changed. As human beings, we do have free will. We have control ofour lives and what we want to make of them. We must learn to see what is beyond our abilities to change andalso what we must have the strength and perseverance to alter. The fate of the universe is in our hands.BibliographyBoyce, Daniel F. Slaughterhouse-Five.

Lundquist, James. Kurt Vonnegut. New York: Frederich Ungar Publishing Co., 1977.Reed, Peter J. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

University of Minnesota, 1977.Schatt, Stanley. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Boston: G.K. Hall and Co., 1976.

Vonnegut, Kurt, Jr. Slaughterhouse-Five. New York: Dell Publishing Co.

, 1968.

Slaughterhouse Five

Slaughterhouse Five Slaughterhouse five is a very complex and twisted story about a World War Two veteran. The story is set in three different time periods of his life. His name is Billy Pilgrim and he lives in Ilium New York. Billy graduated high school in the top third of his class. He attended night school at the Ilium School of Optometry. Soon after he was drafted and his father died while hunting.During war he was a chaplains assistant.

While serving he saw some action and was captured by the Germans. He met a fat antitank gunner named Roland Weary. He wasnt very popular or liked by people. They were taken to a prison with one hundred other American POWs.

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They were shipped by train for a few days and were temporarily set up at a crossroad. There the prisoners were given coats. Billy was given a civilan coat that was too small and in that coat he found a diamond. There, the English prisoners took care of them and helped Billy from going insane.

While there they were given coats and Billy received a civilian coat with a large diamond in it.He also found a pair a silver paratrooper boots. He looked like a clown. While on the way to that prison Weary died of a foot disease and asked people to avenge him. A couple days later the Americans were sent to Dresden to work. On the way there Billy met a car thief named Paul Lazzaro who was going to avenge Wearys death.

The person Weary said was responsible was Billy but Lazzaro had better things on his mind.After a few days in Dresden the city was firebombed. The city was completely destroyed, and to Billy it looked like the moon. 130,000 souls lost their lives that night and that was the end of the war.

Slaughterhouse Five

Slaughterhouse FiveBilly Pilgrim is born in 1922 and grows up in Ilium, New York. A funny-looking, weak youth, he does well in high school, then he enrolls in night classes at the Ilium School of Optometry, and is soon drafted into the army. He serves as a chaplain’s assistant, is sent into the Battle of the Bulge, and almost gets taken prisoner by the Germans.

Just before being captured he first becomes unstuck in time. He sees the entirety of his life in one sweep. Billy is transported with other privates to the beautiful city of Dresden.

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There the prisoners are made to work for their keep. They are kept in a former slaughterhouse. Billy and his fellow POWs survive in an airtight meat locker. They emerge to find a moonscape of destruction. Several days’ later Russian forces capture the city and the war is over. Billy returns to Ilium and finishes optometry school. He gets engaged to the daughter of the founder of the school. His wealthy father-in-law sets him up in the optometry business.

Billy and his wife raise two children and become wealthy.One day in 1967, as he claims on a radio talk show and in a letter to the editor, Billy is kidnapped by two-foot high aliens whose body shape is reminiscent of an upside down toilet plunger. These are the Tralfamadorians. They take him to Tralfamadore where they mate him with the actress Montana Wildhack and keep both earthlings in a zoo. They also explain to him their perception of time, how all of it exists for them simultaneously in the fourth dimension. When someone dies he is simply dead at a particular time.

Somewhere else and at a different time he is alive and well. Tralfamadorians prefer to look at the nice moments.When he is returned to earth, Billy initially says nothing. However, after he suffers a head injury in a plane crash and after his wife dies on her way to see him in the hospital, Billy tells the world what he has learned. He goes on a radio talk show and writes a letter to the newspaper. His daughter is at her wit’s end and doesn’t know what to do with him. Billy makes a tape recording of his account of his death, which will occur in 1976 after Chicago has been hydrogen bombed by the Chinese.

He knows exactly how it will happen: a man he knew in the war will hire someone to shoot him. Billy will experience the violet hum of death, then will skip back to some other point in his life. He’s seen it all many times.There are three main settings in Slaughterhouse-Five. One is War-ravaged Europe, through which Billy travels as a POW and ends up in Dresden. Another is peacetime America, where Billy prospers as an optometrist and pillar of society in Ilium, New York. The last is the planet Tralfamadore, where Billy and his fantasy lover Montana Wildhack are exhibited in a zoo. Each setting corresponds to a different period in Billy Pilgrim’s life, and the story jumps from one setting to another as Billy travels back and forth in time.

The main characters are: Billy Pilgrim is a World War II veteran, a POW survivor of the firebombing of Dresden, a prospering optometrist, a husband, and a father, Billy Pilgrim believes he has “come unstuck in time.” Kurt Vonnegut is the author and narrator of the book and in the first chapter reveals that he himself was on the ground as a prisoner of war during the firebombing of Dresden. Roland Weary is a stupid, cruel soldier taken prisoner by the Germans along with Billy. Weary dies of gangrene in a cattle car as the prisoners are being transported from the lines to prison camps.

Paul Lazzaro is a soldier in the war and the man responsible for Billy’s death. Edgar Derby is a former schoolteacher who is also taken prisoner and sent to Dresden. Derby is sentenced to die by a firing squad for taking a teapot.

Eliot Rosewater occupies the bed near Billy in the nonviolent ward of an asylum after Billy has a post-war breakdown. Kilgore Trout is the bitter, unappreciated author of clever science fiction novels, which never sell but have great influence on Billy. Billy befriends the author and invites him to his eighteenth wedding anniversary. Howard W. Campbell, Jr. is an American who has become a Nazi. Valencia Merble is Billy’s pleasant, fat wife who loves him dearly. Her father, a wealthy optometrist, sets Billy up in the business.

Montana Wildhack is a young actress, kidnapped by the Tralfamadorians to be Billy’s mate inside the zoo.The main theme in this book is war is absurd. The author attacks the reasoning that leads people to commit inhumanity by drawing character portraits and by quoting from official documents (President Truman’s explanation of the reasons for dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima). He also gives a look at the ruins of Dresden so we can see the consequences of what he calls the “military manner” of thinking- which rationalizes a massacre by saying it will hasten the end of the war. The author focuses on the brutality of war and its disastrous effect on human lives, even long after it is over. Billy Pilgrim’s problems all come from what he experienced in the war. The homeless man freezes to death in the boxcar; Roland Weary dies from gangrene in his feet; Edgar Derby is shot for stealing a teapot; the harmless city of Dresden is bombed into the ground: it shouldn’t be possible for such things to happen, as Billy feels.

And yet he was there and saw them happen with his own eyesIn Chapter 1, and part of 10, the author speaks directly in the first person about the difficult time he had writing this book. The rest of the book is Billy Pilgrim’s story told by a third-person narrator. Since an outside narrator is telling Billy’s story, the reader learns not only what Billy is doing and thinking but also what the other characters are up to and what’s on their minds.

Because the author explains that his own experiences in Dresden were the inspiration for Slaughterhouse-Five, it seems that both the narrator and Billy Pilgrim are represented as author. The point of view in this book is the author is looking at the events of his own life; past, present, and future and trying to make some sense out of them the same way that Billy is trying to order the events of his own life.The author uses short, simple sentences that manage to say a lot in a few words. The author also uses imagery.

He also puts in his book references to historical events. These references increase the understanding and appreciation of Billy’s story by suggesting historical and literary parallels to the personal events in his life. The novel does not have smooth transitions from one event to the next.A normal novel has smooth transition.

Vonnegut wrote this book without any smooth transition. This novel is very complicated. The topics that are mention are hard to understand. The book was a bit difficult to follow. Slaughter House-Five’s character’s needs more depth.

More description is necessary. There was too much jumping around in time in Billy’s life. I thought that this book was going to be better than it actually was.I wouldn’t recommend this book to a person wh


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