Slaughterhouse Five and Hamlet

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The Meaning is Near not Here
Comparing a novel to a play can be sometimes challenging. When comparing two characters, it is harder to see the similarities than the differences. Hamlet and Billy Pilgrim are two different characters, from two different centuries, from two different countries, from two different worlds, and yet their search for the meaning of life was astonishingly similar. The search for the meaning of life becomes quite difficult for Hamlet and Billy Pilgrim. They both experience horrific adventures in their lives along with insanity which their personalities attract. The delirium that takes place throughout their adventures continuously brings them one step closer to finding the true meaning of life.

From the very beginning, the Play shows that Hamlet is not living the life that everyone would expect a prince to live. His father is dead and his uncle conquered Hamlet’s throne, while declaring Gertrude as his property. Also Hamlet and his love Ophelia are told they cannot be together, which truly initiates the Play. Hamlet doesn’t understand why his life turned out this way. He is often confused and doesn’t know why his life seems to be ‘stuck’ in this horrific cycle of unfortunate events, or if there is more to his life, or a greater purpose. “To be or not to

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be, that is the question” (3.1.57) . This is indeed the question! Is his life meant to go onto the path of suicide? Does existence offer happiness or is death a more enticing option? After speaking with the ghost that is his father’s spirit; he begins to slowly understand that he does have a purpose. That realization is completely defined by the killing of Claudius. As Hamlet pretends to be insane, it helps him see more clearly how people act around him. It also allowed Hamlet to verify Claudius’s love for him as non genuine. Hamlet fakes being ill-minded to enable him to revenge his father’s death. A genius defence would be his obvious insanity. However, Hamlet is very aware of his surroundings and clearly figures out all the pieces to the dilemma. “ I am but mad north-north west: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw”(2.2:351-352) this clearly shows that he is pretending to be mad, and that he is extremely observant as to what is going on around him and his uncle Claudius.

Similarly, everyone who knows Billy Pilgrim thinks he is mad. The reason why people have this assumption is because he claims that he travels through time involuntarily. Billy has claimed that he also travelled to another planet with aliens. The majority of Billy’s travels take place in his time of struggle and heartache. For example, he keeps on going back to WWII; mostly the bombing of Dresden, and often the end of the world. Billy always sees the end of the world ending in an exact way. The only moments in which Billy is actually progressing with his life is when he is travelling. Billy’s Journey in the search of the meaning of life starts and ends with his time travel, in other words his insanity, much like Hamlet’s. “We know how the world ends and it has nothing to do with Earth, except that it gets wiped out too” (01:26:20) this quote explains that he has seen the end of the world and that the aliens from planet Tralfamadore have told him why and how it happens. The bombing of Dresden is a significant event which makes

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him insane. “I was there, I was there in Dresden” (7:5:13) this was said in the hospital bed when the crazy man beside him was talking about the bombing and under Billy’s breathe he said “ I was there, I was there in Dresden” ”(7:5:14) the man beside him thought he was crazy and paid no attention to Billy. However in reality he re-lived it hundreds of times.

The most challenging moment in Hamlet's life was the main purpose in his search of the meaning of life, and then it finally hits him. “ Haste me know’t, that I with wings as swift as meditation or the thoughts of...
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