Anti War Themes in Catch -22 Slaughter House Five and Night

Topics: Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five, Catch-22 Pages: 7 (2749 words) Published: June 28, 2008
People convey their opinions about moral and social dilemmas in different ways. Writers use different literary forms to express their ideas. Autobiographical books are one means authors use to convey their personal history. Another style of literary composition is satire. Satire is the use of sarcasm and irony to portray human follies or to ridicule human failings (Stein 1270). Science fiction is a literary form of fiction, which has split from the broader form of fantasy; in which the plot, setting and theme are drawn from scientific knowledge (Benets 876). The autobiographical form used by Elie Wiesel in Night and the form of satirical humor used by Joseph Heller in Catch-22 more effectively depict anti-war themes than the science fiction form used by Kurt Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse-Five.

In the book Night, Elie Wiesel uses an autobiographical approach to convey his anti-war themes. Wiesel hopes, "the memory of evil will serve as a shield against evil" (Cover Summary). Autobiographies are successful in conveying their themes because the writer uses "words as windows through which the intended thoughts and feelings…shine through" (Lomask 73-74). This approach makes the brutal events of the Holocaust seem painfully real. The readers are affected because they know the atrocities are documentations of actual events. After reading the novel Night, one is changed. Wiesel's autobiographical approach in Night is successful because the events are personal; they are colorfully described putting the reader in the midst of the action.

Night is an autobiographical account, "that attempts to provide a place where one Holocaust survivor can speak for himself" (Brown 96). Elie Wiesel tells his own story of the death and destruction of Jews during WWII. There is an abundance of almost unbearable sections. The stories Moshe the Beadle tells about the troops throwing babies into the air and using them as target practice and the mass grave from which he escaped are dreadful. Wiesel describes the events in such a descriptive manner that it is hard not to be affected. The physical punishment and emotional damage suffered by the Jews affects the reader and leaves a lasting impression. If we are to learn from Elie Wiesel, we must listen to his stories…they open horizons we had never seen before. They smash barriers we had thought were impregnable. They leave us desolate. They also bind us in new and deeper relationships (Brown 7). Wiesel's writing, "…encounters depths of evil we have never imagined, let alone acknowledged. In listening to him we may be shattered" (Brown 6). It is unfathomable to think of what the Jews in the concentration camps had to go through. Wiesels's personal remembrance of the despair and horror he felt is described as follows: I pinched my face. Was I still alive? Was I awake? I could not believe it. How could it be possible for them to burn people, children, and for the world to keep silent? No, none of this could be true. It was a nightmare…Soon I should wake with a start, my heart pounding, and find myself in the bedroom of my childhood, among my books… (Wiesel 30). The descriptions of the Nazis having no qualms slaughtering masses of innocent people strikes a chord deep in the reader's heart. "Wiesel hopes that his stories will prompt a reflection that leads to a more humane future" so there will not be a repetition of the events in the future (Napierkowski 230).

Wiesel's autobiography is successful because he uses colorful language to set the scene and describe the events. He tells his story using "words as windows through which the intended thoughts and feelings…shine through" which reveal a picture in one's mind (Lomask 73-74). He eloquently describes events like the first day in the concentration camp: Not far from us, flames were leaping up from a ditch, gigantic flames. They were burning something. A lorry drew up at the pit and delivered its load---little children....

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