Slaughterhouse Five: A Peace Novel Essay

1434 words - 6 pages

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.
Kurt Vonnegut is an American novelist from Indianapolis, Indiana, born in 1922. A very important part of his life was when he served in WWII where he was taken as a prisoner of war. Vonnegut was captured by the Germans on December 14, 1944 in the Battle of the Bulge (Biography). He was kept in Dresden with other POWs to work in a syrup factory. When Dresden was bombed on February 13, 1945, he survived while hiding in a cellar of a slaughterhouse where the POWs were living. Vonnegut was finally able to come home in May of 1945. He discusses his struggle to write about his experiences of at the beginning of his novel Slaughterhouse-Five and was unable to publish the book until 1969.
Vonnegut created Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist of the story, in order to express his own views about war. One critic mentions that "no characters in contemporary fiction are more traumatized and emotionally damaged than those
of Kurt Vonnegut" (Broer 121). Billy and Vonnegut carry many similarities throughout the novel. Just like Billy, Vonnegut was taken as a POW and witnessed the firebombing of Dresden (Vees-Gulani 175). During Billy's time in Dresden he meets a German guard named Werner Gluck. Even though the reader knows that Gluck is actually Billy's cousin, Billy never learns this. This kinship can further connect Billy and Vonnegut together. Since Vonnegut is a fourth generation German, it is possible that Vonnegut could also have a cousin that was a Nazi soldier (Biography). Though it may be a far stretch, a further connection the two have is the name of their hometowns. Billy was from the town of Illium, Illinois and Vonnegut was from Indianapolis, Indiana. The correlation between the two cannot be ignored. Billy could very easily be a way for Vonnegut to show the emotions that he felt during the war to the rest of the world.
The anti-war message is upheld further with the ironies that Vonnegut provides in the book. One example is "when one of the soldiers, a POW, survives the fire-bombing, but dies afterward from the dry heaves because he has to bury dead bodies" (Vit). When Billy and one of his comrades join to other scouts the Vonnegut portrays as well trained, Vonnegut displays irony by killing the skillful scouts and allows the less competent Pilgrim and Roland to survive. Roland does eventually die because he is forced to walk around in wooden clogs that turn his...

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