Man's Inherent Evil

Topics: World War II, Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five Pages: 3 (909 words) Published: July 23, 2008
Man’s attempt to create a ‘civilized’ and ‘cultured’ society inevitably leads to the suppression of genuine emotion and impulse; these feelings and behaviors are held in rigid constraints until something or someone destroys the normal order of life and throws man into a state of total chaos. Social barricades often become an integral part of one’s life, and man may forget his inherent evil nature, or he may channel evil in a less savage manner. Kurt Vonnegut, a prominent satirist and World War Two veteran, exposes man’s affinity for evil in his book, Slaughterhouse-Five. This work centers on the experiences and acquaintances of Billy Pilgrim, a young, listless, and dejected soldier who survived the destruction of Dresden. Vonnegut points out that evil is an intrinsic value that societal infrastructure and moral standards mollify or suppress; however, war acts as a catalyst that exposes man’s otherwise latent inclination to commit vicious and barbaric atrocities. The conduct of combat soldiers during the Second World War delineates this tendency to guiltlessly commit acts of evil; whereas, the joviality and kindness of long-time prisoners of war exemplify the dormancy of malice in the absence of inevitable danger and impending doom. Ironically, man’s true personality surfaces in the presence of great emotional stress and the threat of physical destruction.

Man, though intrinsically evil, has adapted to society and given up his cruel and animalistic instincts; however, when his safety is threatened, man inarguably returns to his base and primal instincts, and evil no longer seems unjust to him. This pattern became very clear in World War II; the war witnessed some of most vile and atrocious deeds of mankind, but Vonnegut argues that the war alone does not make people malevolent. Instead he insinuates, through characters like Paul Lazzaro, that man possesses evil from birth, this quality remains inconspicuous and relatively mild until war strips man of his...
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