Military Technology: Progressive or Regressive?
Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five treats one of the most horrific massacres of World War II—the firebombing of Dresden. Dresden was completely wiped out by more than 3900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices dropped by the thousands of heavy bombers. By detailing the devastating effect of the air bombing in Dresden and alluding to the evil of technology through the Trafalmadorians’ stories, Vonnegut criticizes the application of technology in war. He indicates that technology represents a regression of civilization, because the use of technology in war allows people to bomb one another “back to the stone age”. While technology is the result of intelligence and reason, Vonnegut points out that the employment of technology in war only leads to mass destruction. In Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut says that “every day my Government gives me a count of corpses created by military science in Vietnam” (Vonnegut 268). He implies that the great achievement of science and technology used in war is the large number of people it kills. By pointing out that the government measures the success of technology with the loss of lives, Vonnegut reveals the destructive nature of technology and the consequence of its use in war. Vonnegut also demonstrates the devastating effect of technology through Billy’s experience during the firebombing of Dresden. Billy, the protagonist of Slaughterhouse Five, is a war prisoner sent to Dresden to work as a contract laborer. He survives and witnesses the horrifying massacre when the US long-range bombers bomb Dresden. The depiction of the city of Dresden is distinct before and after the bombardment. When Billy first comes to Dresden, the city is described as “the loveliest city that most of the Americans had ever seen” (Vonnegut 189). Vonnegut offers a snapshot of the vigorous everyday life and the industrial civilization of Dresden by narrating that “Steam radiators still whistled...
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