Sunday, October 13, 2019
Looking Into the Past in Vonneguts Slaughter House-Five Essay
Looking Into the Past in Vonnegut's Slaughter House-Five In the spring of 1945, near the end of World War II, American and British bombers rained a hail of fire upon the city of Dresden, Germany. With an estimated 135,000 dead, Dresden is known as one of the deadliest attacks in History, nearly twice as many deaths than the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Kurt Vonnegut was among the few who lived through the firestorm; he wrote a book about it in fact. Slaughter House-Five (1969) is a fictional recount of his experience of the war. Many of the events (at least the parts set in WWII) are real experiences of Kurt. The people in the war are, for the most part, real; Vonnegut just changes all the names. The main character, however does not seem to have been a real person, and has a very unusual war experience. The story begins with Billy Pilgrim becoming "unstuck in time." Throughout the novel, Billy time travels to different times in his life. He's never sure where he'll go next, but he always returns to WWII, which is the main plot line. After Billy's life summary, which actually summarizes many of the events of the novel, the story jumps to when Billy first became "unstuck in time": 1944. Billy is a chaplain's assistant in the army during WWII, and is called oversees after the death of a chaplain's assistant in Europe. He is sent to his regiment during their involvement in the Battle of the Bulge; they do not win. Not being much of a military man, Billy Pilgrim wanders behind German lines until he meets three other American soldiers. After many near deaths, Billy is captured by the Germans and taken to a prisoner camp. While on his way to the camp Billy travels to 1967, the year he is abducted by a flying saucer from Tralfam... ...azy from a lack of water. "When Billy saw the condition of [the horses], he burst into tears. He hadn't cried about anything else in the war" (197). Even during other parts of his life "Billy cried very little, though he often saw things worth crying about" (197). People seem to lose their sense of compassion for life. We often treat animals as inferior emotionless creatures, and in war, we kill other humans for things that really require no killing. By reading Vonnegut's look into the past, hopefully we can learn from our mistakes. I could never find a good reason for killing 135,000 people, most of them civilians. To try for world peace is a nearly impossible task. However, we may be able to look into history and find better ways to deal with our disagreements than killing. Work Cited Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughter House-Five. New York: Dell Publishing, 1991.