A Sardonic Novel, Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five

Decent Essays
Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five” is a sardonic novel chronicling the experiences of Billy Pilgrim, a World War II veteran, survivor of the Dresden firebombing, and protagonist of the novel. Billy is a very unreliable narrator who has become “unstuck in time”. Billy is constantly journeying through time; at one moment he’s a flourishing optometrist and the next he’s a prisoner of war in Germany. Billy is forced to deal with an existential crisis presented forth by the great destruction he witnesses. These horrible atrocities that Billy encounters (bombing of Dresden, execution of Edgar Derby, etc.); however, are all really means to an end. They expose Billy to a contrast, that is, a way in which he can assess his own life and search for meaning. Life and being are seldom questioned. Billy is unique. He watches as thousands of lives are extinguished and he can only wonder “why?” The fact of the matter is, there is no answer. There is no reason why. Billy cannot understand this, which, ultimately, leads to his acceptance of the Tralfamadorian view that nothing has any meaning at all. In the beginning of chapter four, Vonnegut creates a depiction of the war going backwards to display the random nature of time as defined by the Tralfamadorians. In this scene, Billy is watching a movie on American bombers and the gallant pilots in World War II. Billy becomes stuck in time, as he watches the movie forward and backward. This passage in the novel reiterates the
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