Slaughterhouse Five

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Research Paper

on Kurt Vonnegut’s

“Slaughterhouse Five”

by

Stephanie Gill
Outline

I. Introduction and Name

a) “Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade (1969)”

b) Most famous work about the bombing of Dresden

c) “Vonnegut’s telegraphic, schizophrenic” style

II. Background

a) Vonnegut joined the Army

b) Vonnegut’s capture

c) Vonnegut’s experiences in Dresden

III. Plot Summary

a) Idea of the book

b) Dedication of the book

c) Billy Pilgrim as main character

IV. Analysis

a) Glorification and romanticization

b) Largely autobiographical

c) Composition

d) Views

V. Adaptation

a) Turning novel into a film

b) Theatrical adaptation

c) Operatic adaptation

VI. Conclusion

a) Public and social significance

b) Literary value

c) Short summary of novel

d) Young American lives

“Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade” (1969) is one of Kurt Vonnegut’s most famous autobiographical works about the bombing of Dresden during World War II. Kurt Vonnegut was an American writer, satirist and painter who was honored to be called “a writer of New York” in 2001-2003. The novel is written in the so-called “Vonnegut’s” “telegraphic, schizophrenic” style. It combines a strong narrative plot and philosophy, science fiction and the grotesque, burlesque and lampoon. After the bombing of the port Pearl Harbor, Kurt Vonnegut, voluntarily joined the U.S. armed forces and participated in World War II. In 1944 he was captured during the Ardennes counter-offensive operation of the German troops and was sent to Dresden, where he and other prisoners worked at a factory that produced malt syrup with vitamins for pregnant women. And it was Dresden, where Vonnegut was destined to obtain his most terrible war experience. On the 13th and 14th of February 1945, he witnessed the firebombing of Dresden by aircraft of allied troops. Kurt Vonnegut was among seven American POWs who survived that day in Dresden. Prisoners were locked for the night in a Broken City slaughterhouse number 5, and during the bombing were taken away to the basement, which contained meat carcasses. There were almost no real shelters in the city, because Dresden was not strategically an important goal. Narrowly escaping from being killed by their own aircraft, Vonnegut had fully known the horror of war, when together with other prisoners, had to dismantle the ruins and pulled out a thousand corpses from under the debris. Vonnegut was freed by the Red Army in May 1945. According to the writer, the bombing of Dresden was not caused by military necessity. Most of those killed in that operation were civilians; residential areas and monuments were destroyed. Vonnegut, being against fascism, does not recognize that the destruction of Dresden was a “punishment” for the crimes of the Nazis. The novel was censored in the U.S.; it was listed as a “harmful” book and taken out of libraries. Slaughterhouse is a “powerful and popular work that is sure to attract many listeners” (Rasmussen 2004). At the beginning of the novel there is described the idea of the book is about the bombing of Dresden. The author complains that he cannot think of the right words for this book, which he thought to be his main work. To make the plan of his future book, he met with his brother-soldier Bernard O’Hare. O’Hare’s wife Mary was very angry after learning about the idea of the book about the war, because all those books contained an element of glorification of war - a cynical lie, supporting new wars. The conversation of Vonnegut and Mary is a key episode in the beginning of the novel; he explains why the book about Dresden came out such a strange, short, and confused work, that does not prevent it from being anti-war. Also from this dialogue, it becomes clear where the second title...
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