Kurt Vonnegut was born to German-American parents in Indianapolis, Indiana. Like his fictional character Billy Pilgrim, the central character of Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut was born in 1922 and was a very young man when he served in the Army during World War II. Vonnegut was taken prisoner by the Germans after the devastatingly bloody Battle of the Bulge, and lived through the bombing of Dresden by taking shelter in a meat locker beneath a slaughterhouse where he and other American prisoners were being held. After the war, Vonnegut married and worked as a reporter for the Chicago City News Bureau while studying anthropology at the University of Chicago. When Vonnegut’s master’s thesis was rejected, he moved to New York and took a public relations job with General Electric.

In 1951 Vonnegut left GE and began working full-time as a writer. He published numerous short stories in nationally renowned magazines and his first novel, Player Piano, was published in 1952. It was followed over the years by fourteen more novels, of which Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) is the most widely acclaimed. In 1971, the University of Chicago accepted Vonnegut’s 1963 novel Cat’s Cradle as his master’s thesis and awarded him his anthropology degree. Vonnegut also published several books of essays, the last of which, The Man Without a Country: A Memoir of Life in George W. Bush’s America, appeared in 2005. In 2008, the year after his death, a collection of previously unpublished Vonnegut fiction and nonfiction titled Armageddon in Retrospect was published.

Vonnegut was well known as a pacifist and humanist, and Slaughterhouse-Five is, unquestionably, an antiwar novel. It revolves around the controversial Allied bombing of Dresden, the cultural center of northern Germany, which killed tens of thousands of civilians toward the end of World War II. In Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut places the number of civilian deaths at around 130,000, although the city was so full of refugees at the...

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Essays About Slaughterhouse-Five