All the King's Horses

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Short Story
“All the King’s Horses”
Kurt Vonnegut is able to put a man’s face on war in his short story, “All the King’s Horse ”, and he exemplifies that in a time of war, the most forgotten effect on nations is the amount of innocent lives lost in meaningless battle due to unjust rulers fighting each other against a nation’s will. As Americans, we are oblivious to the fact that we have people fighting every day for our country. In addition, we ignore the fact that we do a lot of collateral damage and hurt innocent people unintentionally in order to get what we want. Vonnegut shows the reader in Pi Ying’s own sadistic way of demonstrating how he feels about war brings attention to the point that war, while unruly and cruel, is nothing more than a game of sacrifice and strategy, much like chess, and must be approached with both stealth and aggression.

It is brought to the readers attention early on in the story that getting out of the hands of their capture was not going to be easy or painless after crashing their plane on Asia mainland. While already in the midst of a war with the Japanese, Pi Ying knows that, “he hasn’t got a thing to lose by getting the United States sore at him” (86). Pi Ying also feels the need to show these ignorant Americans how the game he is about to play with their lives is no different than war, and he brings this to Colonel Kelly’s attention when he states, “a chess game can rarely be won – any more than a battle can be won – without sacrifices” (89). What he means by this is there is no way for Colonel Kelly to walk away with his life without sacrificing some of his platoon or even his family. This turns out to be a very true statement as their game of life or death progresses. The reality of death in war quickly becomes apparent when Pi Ying kills the King’s pawn on his second move. Even though this wasn’t a smart move when it comes to chess, but it was a tactical move used to scare the Americans and show them his power over...
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