The Life of Billy Pilgrim in Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children's Crusade

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The Life of Billy Pilgrim in Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children's Crusade Marked by two world wars and the anxiety that accompanies humanity's knowledge of the ability to destroy itself, the Twentieth Century has produced literature that attempts to depict the plight of the modern man living in a modern waste land. If this sounds dismal and bleak, it is. And that is precisely why the dark humor of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. shines through our post-modern age. The devastating bombing of Dresden, Germany at the close of World War II is the subject of Vonnegut's most highly acclaimed work, Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children's Crusade: A Duty Dance with Death. Vonnegut's experience as an American POW in Dresden…show more content…
Vonnegut was there, and his compulsion to tell about it urged him to eventually find a way. Ironically, it was the cool meat locker of Slaughterhouse-Five in Dresden, three levels beneath the earth, that saved Vonnegut and a handful of POW's from the bombing that killed the thousands of men, women and children above ground in the German town. While exchanging memories with an old war buddy, Bernard V. O'Hare, Vonnegut sensed Mrs. O'Hare's obvious rage. Her livid commentary on Vonnegut's attempt to write about Dresden inspired the subtitle "The Children's Crusade": " 'You were just babies in the war-like the ones upstairs! . . . You'll pretend you were men instead of babies, and you'll be played in movies by Frank Sinatra and John Wayne or some of those other glamorous, war-loving, dirty old men. And war will look just wonderful, so we'll have a lot more of them. And they'll be fought by babies, like the babies upstairs' " (18). Vonnegut explains his vow to Mary O'Hare to set out against any machoistic depiction of the massacre at Dresden, hence the name, The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death. His narrative begins with the simple Billy Pilgrim who "has come unstuck in time" (29). The pilgrimage of Billy Pilgrim does not begin at Dresden or end with his death decades later. Billy is "unstuck in time," and the moments of his
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