Comic and Tragic Elements in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five

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Comic and Tragic Elements in Slaughterhouse Five Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., is the tale of a World War II soldier, Billy Pilgrim. His wartime experiences and their effects lead him to the ultimate conclusion that war is unexplainable. To portray this effectively, Vonnegut presents the story in two dimensions: historical and science-fiction. The irrationality of war is emphasized in each dimension by contrasts in its comic and tragic elements. The historical seriousness of the Battle of the Bulge and the bombing of Dresden are contrasted by many ironies and dark humor; the fantastical, science-fiction-type place of Tralfamadore is, in truth, an outlet for Vonnegut to show his incredibly serious fatalistic views.…show more content…
Ironically the talented, trained scouts are killed by the Germans, whereas Billy and Roland are spared and merely taken as POWs. The simplicity and innocence in the description of the tragic ends of the scouts are told in the simple sentence, "Three inoffensive bangs came from far away." The ending of lives, especially that of comrades, cannot be characterized as "inoffensive." Billy doesn't say this to be unsympathetic, but rather from the shock of a war that alters his perception of life, and makes him unable to deal with reality in a normal way. More irony is shown with the horrible conditions on the POW train headed for Dresden, plagued by cold weather, endless hours of nothing to do, and cramped surroundings. A hobo dies on one boxcar while proclaiming, "You think this is bad? This ain't so bad." Also, Roland Weary dies of gangrene, as a result of going shoeless when he is stripped of his boots by German soldiers. He blames Billy for his death. Ironically, of the four original soldiers, Billy is the only one who remains alive, yet he is the most unlikely one to do so. Eventually, Billy makes it to Dresden, and he and the other American POWs are housed in Schlachthof-Funf (Slaughterhouse-Five), from which the book's name is derived. Because Dresden is an "open city", not militarily important to the Allied Powers, people from surrounding cities flee to Dresden to take refuge. Ironically, the city is bombed and the thousands of

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