Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five Essays

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Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five

Great artists have the ability to step back from society and see the absurd circus that their world has become. Such satirists use their creative work to reveal the comic elements of an absurd world and incite a change in society; examples include Stanley Kubrick’s film, Dr. Strangelove, and Joseph Heller’s novel, Catch-22. Both works rose above their more serious counterparts to capture the critical voice of a generation dissatisfied with a nation of warmongers. Completing this triumvirate of anti-war classics is Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. Infusing his social commentary with science fiction, satire, bizarre characters, and the problem of death, Vonnegut creates one of the
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This experience, above all other wartime horrors, changed the writer-to-be’s perspective on warfare and the human condition that causes it.

Vonnegut returned home from the war and worked with General Electric before striking success with his writing. Throughout the 50s and 60s he published such classic novels as Player Piano, The Sirens of Titan, and Cat’s Cradle. His work landed him moderate success and a three-book contract, as well as a Guggenheim Fellowship that gave Vonnegut the time and money to revisit his nightmares in Dresden. Writing with his typical mix of the morbid and mundane Vonnegut says, “[Dresden] looked a lot like Dayton, Ohio, more open spaces…there must be tons of human bone meal in the ground” (Slaughterhouse-Five 1). Vonnegut later addressed the English responsible with a more vindictive passion: “You guys burnt that place down, turned it into a single column of flame. More people died there in that firestorm, in that one big flame, than died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined” (qtd. in Rense).

Vonnegut saw a “mountain of dead people” in Dresden. “That makes you thoughtful,” he said; “It…made…you think about…death” (qtd. in Roloff). Years passed during which Vonnegut grappled with these thoughts of the Dresden problem and the fact that “there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre” (Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five 24). Finally, in 1969 Vonnegut published his anti-war masterpiece under the title of his prison address in
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