Vonnegut calls upon his personal experiences to create his breakthrough work, Slaughterhouse Five. Vonnegut expresses his own feeling on war, family, and free will through the non-linear narrative of the protagonist, Billy Pilgrim. His experience as a soldier and death within his family are mirrored into Pilgrim’s character.
“Fate is a misconception, it's only a cover-up for the fact you don't have control over your own life.” –Anonymous. In Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Slaughterhouse-five, an optometrist named Billy Pilgrim becomes unstuck in time uncontrollably and constantly travels between his past, present, and future. Since Pilgrim is unable to control his time warps, he is forced to re-live agonizing moments such as watching his wartime friend Edgar Derby executed for stealing or going through the Dresden bombing repeatedly. However, he is also able to visit pleasant moments like speaking as president in front of the Lions club or his honeymoon with his wife, Valencia. Vonnegut’s use of repetition and vision of war, time and death are crucial to Pilgrim as he
How would one feel if he woke up one morning and couldn’t decipher what was real and what was his imagination? He would feel confused. But how would people react if he confused his imagination with reality? They would suspect that he is going crazy. This is actually quite similar to the character Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse- Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Billy was a prisoner of war and witnessed the bombing of Dresden. After what he had witnessed, Billy shows signs of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder throughout the novel. He had trouble sleeping, he had nightmares, and he was constantly looking back at time and reliving the trauma he faced. According to the article Who Develops Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, “the effects of extreme stress has a long history, primarily focused on the effects of war” (Ozer and Weiss 1). One can assume that Billy developed PTSD after the war because of the way he acted. After seeing so many deaths from the war, Billy no longer has emotions towards death and sadness. By witnessing these horrible deaths and the bombing of Dresden, nothing seems horrific to Billy anymore. He shows no emotion when someone dies. He then confuses his life with science fiction novels and people begin to think he’s going crazy. After the war, his life was never the same. Ultimately, Billy Pilgrim is unable to live a normal life due to his traumatic memories from the war.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr., a World War II veteran and author of the literary masterpiece Slaughterhouse-Five, was one of the many there to witness the destruction of the city of Dresden located in Germany, and one of the few to survive to tell the gruesome details. Most of his writing was used to encourage those with anti-war mindsets to take a stand, and to inform everyone else of the damage that is done when a nation goes to war. He uses his books to remind people that war is gruesome, gory, and violent, and the glamorous aspect of it is simply a disturbed part of one’s imagination that truly does not exist. He reminds people of the visceral hatred that comes with the package of war; of how
Kurt Vonnegut is the author of the book Slaughterhouse Five. Of course it was controversial, and still is. The first chapter addresses the conflicts of creating such a novel in the first chapter of the book. In the book Harrison Starr questioned Vonnegut asking if his book were to be a war book. Vonnegut said it was and Starr “Why don’t you make an anti-glacier book instead?” (4). Vonnegut believed what Starr meant by that was wars, like glaciers, are as unpredictable and unstoppable. (4). As one gets farther into the book it completely changed dynamics. The novel then goes into the story of Billy Pilgrim instead of the autobiographical view from the first chapter. The three main literary elements in which will be focusing on analysing is theme,
Slaughterhouse-Five, a novel written by Kurt Vonnegut, tells the story of the devastating effects of war on a man, Billy Pilgrim, who joins the army fight in World War II. The semi-autobiographical novel sheds light on one of history’s most tragic, yet rarely spoken of events, the 1945 fire-bombing of Dresden, Germany.
The phrase “so it goes” is repeated 106 times in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. From “dead” champagne to the massacre at Dresden, every death in the book is seemingly equalized with the phrase “so it goes”. The continuation of this phrase ties in with the general theme on indifference in the story. If the Tralfamadorian view of time is correct, then everyone is continuously living every moment of their life and dying is not the end. However, if Vonnegut believed in this idea, then he wouldn’t have felt compelled to write about the firebombing of Dresden. It is clear that both Billy Pilgrim and Kurt Vonnegut are affected by the massacre they saw, but they have different ways of rationalizing it. Billy finds comfort in the Tralfamadorian view of life, whereas Vonnegut disagrees, and urges the reader to disagree too. The constant repetition of “so it goes” breaks the reader away from the Tralfamadorian point of view, and allows them to come to their own conclusion that although it would be nice to forget the bad parts of life, it is important to remember all of the past. Vonnegut helps the reader come to this conclusion by repeating the phrase after gruesome moments, and showing how meaningless life can be if the Tralfamadorian ideas are believed, as seen through Billy Pilgrim’s bland life..
Throughout Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut uses Billy Pilgrim to mirror how people cope with trauma and disillusionment. Upon Billy’s return from war, he is diagnosed with PTSD, and eventually creates Tralfamadorians to help him make sense of his world. The aliens teach him to use the phrase, so it goes, whenever he hears of tragedies or death; however, over the course of the novel the maxim transitions from being an anecdote used to accept how the world works into a warning that presages how the world will end.
This kind-of off the wall opinion can be interpreted as people being physically stuck in this world, that people don't have any choice over what mankind as a whole, do and what people head for. The only thing one can do is think about everything, but it won't affect anything. This idea appears many times throughout the novel. This is one of the examples, when Billy proposes marriage to Valencia:
In the novel Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, a fictional character named Bill Pilgrim is used to depict the various themes about life and war. Vonnegut went through some harsh times in Dresden, which ultimately led to him writing about the tragedies and emotional effects that come with war. By experiencing the war first handed, Vonnegut is able to make a connection and relate to the traumatic events that the soldiers go through. Through the use of Billy Pilgrim and the other characters, Vonnegut is able show the horrific affects the war can have on these men, not only during the war but after as well. From the very beginning Vonnegut portrays a strong sense of anti-war feelings, which he makes most apparent through Billy Pilgrim.
Kurt Vonnegut’s background had an endless influence upon his writing. In his early years, Vonnegut was a private in the 106th infantry division in World War II. He and five scouts were caught behind enemy lines, and then captured. They were held POWs and were beaten on various occasions. In 1945, they witnessed the fire-bombing of Dresden, Germany. Kept during this time in a slaughterhouse, this is part of the inspiration for Slaughterhouse-five. After being released from the Slaughterhouse, Vonnegut called Dresden “utter destruction” and “carnage unfathomable”. This distressing time in his life led to one of the many themes of Slaughterhouse-five which is that nothing good can come from war and a massacre. This theme
The Slaughterhouse Five novel, is a fictional and nonfictional delight all clashed into one. The author, Kurt Vonnegut, amazingly combines a fictional character’s life with the nonfictional influence of what Kurt himself had experienced. As well as major topics being debated on and dealt with today. Billy Pilgrim takes hold of the story’s main protagonist as a prisoner of war during the Dresden raids in eastern Germany. While reading, I found many relationships in the novel to common concerns, such as time and death; too correlated opinions from other anti-war enthusiasts.
War is a tragic experience that can motivate people to do many things. Many people have been inspired to write stories, poems, or songs about war. Many of these examples tend to reflect feelings against war. Kurt Vonnegut is no different and his experience with war inspired him to write a series of novels starting with Slaughter-House Five. It is a unique novel expressing Vonnegut's feelings about war. These strong feeling can be seen in the similarities between characters, information about the Tralfamadorians, dark humor, and the structure of the novel.
Billy Pilgrim is the person that the book is written around. We follow him, perhaps not in a straight order, from his youth joining the military to his abduction on the alien planet of Tralmalfadore, to his older age at his 1960s home in Illum. It is his experiences and journeys that we follow, and his actions we read about. However, Billy had a specific lack of character for a main one. He is not heroic, he has very little personality traits, let alone an immersive and complex character. Most of the story is written around his experiences that seem more like symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from his World War Two days, combined with hallucinations after a brain injury in a near-fatal plane
Baruch Spinoza once said “Experience teaches us no less clearly than reason, that men believe themselves free, simply because they are conscious of their actions and unconscious of the causes whereby those actions are determined.” He compared free-will with destiny and ended up that what we live and what we think are all results of our destiny; and the concept of the free-will as humanity know is just the awareness of the situation. Similarly, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five explores this struggle between free-will and destiny, and illustrates the idea of time in order to demonstrate that there is no free-will in war; it is just destiny. Vonnegut conveys this through irony, symbolism and satire.