12 October 2014
Twists & Tralfalmadorians: Symbolism in Slaughterhouse Five
Not everyone is a time-traveling, dimension-defying war veteran. However, Billy Pilgrim, the main character in the novel Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, is one such human. Blessed with a special gift of being able to walk through time and space unexpectedly by an alien race called Tralfalmadorians (from a planet by the name of Tralfalmador), Billy Pilgrim encounters a variety of humorous, ironic, ridiculous, and sometimes dark situations. Vonnegut, being a veteran of the second World War himself, also had encountered his fair share of unfortunate and dark situations. From this, Vonnegut uses both men to portray the negative effects of war on the human psyche (such as P.T.S.D.), and how they can create lasting mental and emotional scars on soldiers and those involved with wars.
Veterans of foreign wars often suffer from many lasting negative effects on their personality and physical abilities. An extremely common example of this is insomnia, quite possibly due to an inability to suppress memories of events during the war. Vonnegut, having been a veteran of World War II and the extremely gruesome Dresden bombing, is a victim of such a plight. Often times, late at night, when suffering from said inability to sleep, Vonnegut would find his way to the alcohol cabinet, get absolutely drunk, and, after having driven his wife away with his drunkenness, would phone “this friend or that one, from whom [he] had not seen in years” (5). The use of alcohol is a very common form of sublimation used by veterans to deal with the difficult and scarring memories that they suffered from having at these late night hours; PTSD in its strictest sense is While this pastime may have been unhealthy and negative in its nature, it was from this late night pastime that Vonnegut came in contact with a man he had served with in World War II by...
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