Though war is a traumatizing and miserable experience, it may also be able to move and inspire people to write a brilliant piece of literature. One example, for instance, is Kurt Vonnegut who may have been stimulated by the war, thus writing Slaughterhouse Five. Though one may categorize this piece as science fiction or even auto - biographical, it can also be interpreted as an anti war piece. Because Vonnegut is classified as a post modernist, one can take into account all the details, such as the similarities between the main character and Vonnegut, the Tralfamadorians, and the style and themes of the novel, and interpret this piece with an anti war perspective. Vonnegut demonstrates his own antiwar sentiments throughout Slaughterhouse Five with the use of irony, satire, science fiction and dark humor . Billy Pilgrim, the main character, is similar to Vonnegut in many ways. One can agree that the most significant time in Vonnegut's life was when he served in WWII, and was a prisoner of war (POW) in Dresden, Germany. There he experienced the firebombings of Dresden, which greatly shaped his feelings about war (1969 Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five). When Vonnegut created Billy Pilgrim, he made Billy subject to the experience of war. In fact, like Vonnegut , Billy was able to experience the same situations including the experiences of being a POW and in the firebombing of Dresden. But in Billy's case, Vonnegut writes with a sense of being anti war (Insanity). For instance, when Vonnegut writes of the ways Billy views things, he makes Billy's view "slanted, which makes the reader perceive the war as something absurd, grotesque, macabre--in any case, not quite real" (Classic Notes). Here it is apparent that Vonnegut uses Billy to let the reader know of his own personal views by creating Billy much like himself. Vonnegut said the he always meant to place himself in all of his works and here is a great example of that (American Writers 753). Though Vonnegut already emphasized Billy in his life during the war, he continues to do so after as well. Billy struggles to put himself back together after the war, which really shows the destructive power of war, but he does finally resolve to be an optometrist. One can also interpret his profession as a theme: Perez 2
the importance of sight (Lichtenstein). This relates to Billy having "sight" before the war but losing his "true" sense after. Ironically, he tries to correct the vision of others as an optometrist. Along those lines Jesse Lichtenstein says, "Vonnegut may be commenting on the futility of life and the destructiveness of war: the one employed to correct the myopic view of all his patients may be the most blind of all" (Lichtenstein). Billy feels that everything that he is doing is useless or futile and it is contradictory to everything that is happening. With this, the use of irony shows Vonnegut's anti-war feelings. Science fiction was also used by Vonnegut through the Tralfamadorians in order to convey his feelings again. The Tralfamadorians are aliens that abduct the protagonist, Billy Pilgrim. They can observe a fourth dimension, free from time itself, which, "contains all moments of time occurring and reoccurring endlessly and simultaneously" (Lichtenstein). Due to this ability, they have very different views and criticize the beliefs of those on earth. The Tralfamadorians are another way Vonnegut tells his feelings. Tralfamadorians are able to criticize those on earth, with their unique views with war. Tralfamadorians comment on how people on earth are only concerned with talking about free will (Novels for Students 265). Since earthlings believe only in free will and not fatalism (the belief that there is no free will and everything that happens is fate) like the Tralfamdorians do, they believe that earth is corrupt (Classic Notes)....
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Vonnegut Corner. Ed.Mark Vit. May 1999. 28 Nov. 2004.
"Insanity of War in Slaughterhouse-Five." Classic Notes
"Kurt Vonnegut." American Writers. Vol. 2 Supplement II, Part 2. New York: Charles Scribner 's Sons,
Lichtenstein, Jesse. "Slaughterhouse-Five: Themes, Motifs, and Symbols." Spark Notes. 2002. Spark
"Slaughterhouse-Five." Novels for Students. Ed. Diane Telgen and Kevin Hile. Vol. 3. Detroit: Gale
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