Critical Book Review of Slaughterhouse Five

Topics: Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut, Bombing of Dresden in World War II Pages: 6 (2418 words) Published: February 15, 2007
In Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut explains his experience of the World War II bombing of Dresden, Germany. Vonnegut's creative antiwar novel shows the audience the hardships of the life of a soldier through his writing technique. Slaughterhouse Five is written circularly, and time travel is ironically the only consistency throughout the book. Vonnegut outlines the life of Billy Pilgrim, whose life and experiences are uncannily similar to those of Vonnegut. In Chapter 1, Kurt Vonnegut non-fictionally describes his intentions for writing the book. Vonnegut personally experienced the destruction of Dresden, and explains how he continuously tried to document Dresden but was unsuccessful for twenty-three years after the war. Vonnegut let the audience know his continued displeasure with his attempts in order to inform them how difficult of a task the completion of his novel was. Throughout the novel, Billy Pilgrim is traveling to different moments in his life. He has seen his death, as well as his birth, and everything in between. Also, Billy Pilgrim has traveled to the planet "Tralfamadore." The audience doesn't know if this claim is true, but Billy is convinced that he has been abducted by the Tralfamadorians and taken to their planet. The Tralfamadorians are very significant in that they can view time in a completely different way than humans. The aliens see and entire event, not just individual moments like humans see. Tralfamadorians have seen the beginning and end of the universe. They describe this ability to Billy as "looking at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains instead of a small pebble of it" (p34).

Kurt Vonnegut served in the Armed Forces during World War II and was captured during The Battle of the Bulge. He and a group of American prisoners of war were taken to Dresden to take part in a prisoner work camp. Vonnegut and his fellow soldiers were housed n an underground facility when Dresden became history as the most loss of human life at one time. On the night of February 13, 1945, Dresden was firebombed by the Allied Air Force. The entire city was demolished and 135,000 people were killed. The number of casualties is greater than that of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined, yet the Dresden massacre is virtually unheard of. This massacre undoubtedly left a huge impression on Vonnegut, and his struggle to live with this horrible fact delayed the production of his book for twenty-three years. He had wanted to write a book from the time that he got home from the war, but his confusion and torment hindered his ability to write about the destruction. All of this anguish is what prompted Vonnegut to write his novel how he did, however. This background has certainly impacted Slaughterhouse Five, especially since the novel is a fictional story based on a real event. Vonnegut derives everything he uses from the Dresden bombing, including his writing technique. In the novel, Vonnegut is expressing his antiwar feelings, and he clearly expresses the fact that he does not want to glorify war because it is a treacherous thing. Vonnegut has written thirty-one novels, and the novels written after his involvement in World War II have consistently been about wars and sent antiwar messages. It has also been said that Vonnegut is a proponent of science fiction. He disclaims this fact, but it can be seen in many of his writings, including Slaughterhouse Five. He has typically used science fiction to characterize the world and the nature of existence as he experiences them. His chaotic fictional universe abounds in wonder, coincidence, randomness and irrationality. Science fiction is also technically useful, he has said, in providing a distance perspective, "moving the camera out into space," as it were. And unusually for this form, Vonnegut's science fiction is frequently comic, not just in the "black humor" mode with which he has been tagged so often, but in being simply funny. He is known for his satire and in a review for...
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