Billy Pilgrim has not come unstuck in time; Billy has become a victim of violent warfare. Common to many soldiers of war, he has witnessed such horrific events during the bombing of Dresden that he has acquired Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In order to avoid the reality of his cruel life and of the war, Billy has become dependant on escapism. Through escapism he has created the planet of Tralfamadore and the Tralfamadorians.
Billy Pilgrim has become a victim of PTSD after having served in the military during World War Two. Although not officially diagnosed until the 1980s, the mental disorder had been terrorizing its victims throughout history. One will understand Billy Pilgrim inevitably suffers from this disorder when one discovers what it is to have PTSD:
“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, or military combat. People with PTSD have persistent frightening thoughts and memories of their ordeal and feel emotionally numb, especially with people they were once close to. They may experience sleep problems, feel detached or numb, or be easily startled.”
Billy Pilgrim epitomizes a victim of this mental disorder. Throughout his life, beginning with his near death experienced when his father used “the method of sink-or-swim”(43) and tossed Billy into the deep end of the pool, Billy has experienced many traumatic events that could have triggered the effects of PTSD. The first sign of his symptoms became evident behind enemy lines when Billy was attacked by a fellow soldier: “Billy was down on all fours on the ice, and Weary kicked him in the ribs, rolled him over on his side. Billy tried to form himself into a ball” (51). In reaction “Billy was involuntarily making convulsing sounds” (51). Billy’s mental disorder is deep rooted. However, Billy most evidently suffers because of the bombing of Dresden. He witnessed the effects of one of the most horrific and unnecessary military assaults in the history of the United States. Furthermore, during his stay in Dresden, Billy witnessed an equally devastating scene when “poor old Edgar Derby” was killed by a firing squad for stealing a teapot form the rubble of Dresden, and Billy had to dig his grave. The murder of his mentor and leader had an equivalent effect on his mental health as the bombing of Dresden. Billy was unable to cope with the loss of Derby with whom he had become good friends. The aftermath of these events is catastrophic throughout the life of Billy Pilgrim. Billy became emotionally numb. Because of the war he failed to have a relationship with his wife or his son and did not try to deter him from going to war despite his own experiences. Furthermore, what Billy perceives as time travelling is merely “frightening thoughts and memories” from the war from which he seems emotionally detached. Billy constantly refuses to talk bout the war despite his wife’s best efforts. Billy’s symptoms of PTSD are also evident when he sleeps. In order to calm his anxiety Billy has to use “Magic Fingers”(62), a vibrating electrical blanket that helps him fall asleep. Billy also gets nightmares, because when he falls asleep in the boxcar in Germany that is taking him to a prisoner’s camp, the other prisoners refuse to sleep next to him due to his whimpering and kicking.“Every so often, for no apparent reason, Billy Pilgrim would find himself weepeing” (61). He is not in control of his emotions. Billy was also easily startled. When a siren went off “that was simply announcing high noon” (57) and “scared the hell out of him”(57), ‘he was expecting World War Three at any time”(57). Billy Pilgrim’s life is one that outlines the life of someone suffering from PTSD. Because of his experiences in Dresden, Billy has become emotionally and...
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