Insanity of War in Slaughterhouse Five

1504 Words Mar 10th, 2005 7 Pages
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., is the tale of a gawky World War II veteran/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. The surprising variations of the seriousness …show more content…
One soldier dies from the dry heaves after being forced to work in a rotting corpse mine. Ironically, this man has survived the bombing of Dresden, yet dies from the smell of others who died in the bombing. Eventually, the corpse mines are closed because of the horrendous conditions, and the war ends. The book ends as Billy is walking out of the slaughterhouse after gaining his freedom and he notices is that, "Birds were talking. One bird said to Billy Pilgrim, "Poo-tee-weet?'" The bird's cameo in the story reinforces the idea that there is nothing to say about an unnecessary massacre as in Dresden, and that war is illogical, like the bird's words. This is ironic, since the theme of the novel, which should be the clearest message derived from the story, is summed up in the incoherent words of a bird. All these incidences of irony show senselessness and coincidence, with undertones of dark humor. [In questioning why the incidences of the novel occur, it is impossible to give a logical explanation.] This parallels the idea that war is nonsense, senseless, full of coincidence, and is unexplainable.
As a result of the trauma of Billy's war experience, he faces an inability to deal with reality later in his life. The fantastical Tralfamadore is a planet where Billy escapes to when he feels life's stresses; however mad Billy seems to have become, Tralfamadore doubles to reveal Vonnegut's earnest fatalistic views. Tralfamadore is the
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