Slaughterhouse 5 Essays
Like Vonnegut, who speaks in his own voice in several places to confirm that much of the novel is based on his wartime experiences, Billy Pilgrim lives through the firebombing of Dresden during World War II. From the beginning of the book, war is presented as both comically and horrifyingly absurd. Billy and his comrades, American and German, are ludicrously inept as soldiers. As the subtitle of the novel indicates, they are children on a gamelike crusade, manipulated by inscrutable forces.
Yet the game is deadly: The destruction of Dresden, a city of no strategic importance, populated only by Germans too old or weak to fight and prisoners of war such as Billy, is senseless but inevitable. Because of the shock of this event, Billy becomes a perpetual prisoner of war, returning again and again in his mind to this scene. Vonnegut’s message is especially powerful as he reminds the reader that the destruction of Dresden is no isolated occurrence: Slaughterhouse-Five was written during the Vietnam War era and alludes frequently to a new generation of Billy Pilgrims and Children’s Crusades.
More than simply a war novel--or, more precisely an antiwar novel--Slaughterhouse-Five is a captivating science fiction story. Scenes from World War II alternate with Billy’s life on exhibition in a kind of zoo on the distant planet Tralfamadore. What little solace or pleasure Billy experiences comes at the hands of the Tralfamadorians, whose calmly fatalistic philosophy seems wise when compared to normal human stupidity and irrationality.
Vonnegut’s style is disjointed and the novel is composed of short vignettes and fragments rather than a fully developed sequential narrative, but this style is purposely unsettling and helps Vonnegut accomplish several key objectives. Billy Pilgrim’s time traveling, his habit of jumping quickly from present to past to future as if they were all simultaneously existing moments, makes him seem odd, even crazy, at first glance. But as the novel progresses, the reader acknowledges more and more that this is the natural way the human mind works. Everyone daydreams, remembers, and fantasizes, and these activities become especially important when a person lives in a world that is highly in need of such imaginative remaking.
Giannone, Richard. Vonnegut: A Preface to His Novels. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1977. Astute reading of Slaughterhouse-Five, marking the biblical references and Vonnegut’s personal testimony. Devotes similar attention to other novels by Vonnegut.
Klinkowitz, Jerome. Kurt Vonnegut. New York: Methuen, 1982. Explains Slaughterhouse-Five as one of Vonnegut’s “personal” novels, as opposed to the earlier ones that adhere to the stricter forms of science fiction. Draws correlations among the Vonnegut novels.
Klinkowitz, Jerome. Slaughterhouse-Five: Reforming the Novel and the World. Boston: Twayne, 1990. A complete study of the novel. Criticism is taken from sources that reviewed Slaughterhouse-Five when it was published. Numerous passages of Slaughterhouse-Five are explained in depth, as well as Vonnegut’s philosophy as it was seen by the reviewers of his time.
Mayo, Clark. Kurt Vonnegut: The Gospel from Outer Space (or, Yes We Have No Nirvanas). San Bernardino, Calif.: Borgo Press, 1977. A short book with considerable insights into Slaughterhouse-Five and other novels by Vonnegut. The wit, sarcasm, and style of Vonnegut is prominent in the writing of this text.
Schatt, Stanley. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Boston: Twayne, 1976. Explores the construction, plot, and structure of Slaughterhouse-Five and considers Vonnegut’s sense of aesthetic distance from the work. Chapters include the contribution of Slaughterhouse-Five to the genre of science fiction and the Tralfamadorian philosophy.
The Theme of Time in Slaughterhouse-Five Essay
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The Theme of Time in Slaughterhouse-Five
Many writers in history have written science fiction novels and had great success with them, but only a few have been as enduring over time as Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. Slaughterhouse-Five is a personal novel which draws upon Vonnegut's experience's as a scout in World War Two, his capture and becoming a prisoner of war, and his witnessing of the fire bombing of Dresden in February of 1945 (the greatest man-caused massacre in history). The novel is about the life and times of a World War Two veteran named Billy Pilgrim. In Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut uses structure and point of view to portray the theme that time is relative.
The way Kurt Vonnegut structures…show more content…
More of the time travels Billy has take him to his time on the planet Tralfamadore. Billy says that the aliens abducted him on his daughter's wedding night and returned him a few milliseconds later, but actually spend many months on Tralfamadore because the Tralfamadorians can also see in the fourth dimension, time, which allowed them to keep Billy for what seemed like longer than what he was actually there. While on Tralfamadore, Billy learns to accept his life as it is dealt to him because nothing that happens to you damages you forever. Since time is relative, and your life is like a mountain range, your death ,birth, and all the events in between are nothing more than peaks in a range of mountains, irremovable and able to be visited numerous times. The point of view that Slaughterhouse-Five is written from also affects the way the reader fells about time after reading the novel. Since the story is narrated by a omniscient being that is everywhere with Billy Pilgrim, the reader gets a first hand account of every event in his life. Also Billy is very relaxed and accepting all things around him. A good example of this is Billy's habit of following every death with "so it goes". (Vonnegut 69) The repetition of this phrase not only de-emphasizes death, but also helps Vonnegut assert control over the readers response after a death. (Dawley 2) The way Billy