How long does it take for a person
to emotionally and mentally get over a tragedy? How does such a thing affect
them? People handle situations differently: 5
some good, some bad. In the book Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut uses
satire to illustrate man’s ability to overcome tragedy through irony and humor.
Billy Pilgrim, one
of Vonnegut’s main characters, has severe pain and suffers from a bombing in
Dresden. The bombing alters his state of
mind and the Vonnegut uses this tragedy to let the readers see what it’s like
to experience an event that is detrimental to the physical and mental state of
your body. He then gets the ability to go back and forth in time to his
background of the planet which has given him a new way of seeing time. Billy’s
conditions of shock, bewilderment, dislocation, and want for getaway conclude
from the terrible backgrounds of war. His time travel could be seen as misconceptions
of an emotionally unstable man (Cott 270). His visions of the planet
Tralfamadore are his way of dealing with the existence of death and war (Lundquist
Billy Pilgrim is a
man who is captured in the horrors of war, who wishes only to be left alone to
die. He soon slips to the world of his creativity,
Tralfamadore. This place is an unrealistic
world that becomes more real than the regular world. He then discovers of the
aliens’ reasoning of death and time. It is one that defines his own. By
accepting that all moments exist at the same time, as Tralfamadorians do,
Pilgrim can reject the presence of death and decade that “Everything was beautiful
and nothing hurt (Merrill 89).” Tralfamadore isn’t a science fanciful place,
but an illusion of Billy’s mind psychologically forced to help him face the frightfulness
of Dresden and death normally(Merrill 89). The time travel aspects of Billy’s
delusions cause the stage fright he gets at never knowing “what part of his
life he’s going to have to act in next (Edelstein 62).”
is also a character in the novel, a writer trying to face his horrifying
experiences during the World War I Allied bombing of Dresden. He tries and uses
this writing experience for not only a lesson but trying to get vilification
for the events that happened in his life. He goes back and forth in time (as
Billy does) in his attempt to get solutions to his inquiries. The novel’s first
chapter consists of Vonnegut exploring the problems he had in writing the
novel. He quotes the novel, “Is so short and jumbled and jangled because there
is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre (Cott 270).” The conflicts Vonnegut
face are the horrors of life and our artistic ability to understand their full truth
(Lundquist 42). This allows the reader to connect the author to the main
character, Billy, who also went through a tragedy.
In telling his
annoyance, Vonnegut gestates his own life the way he does Billy’s, in terms of
Tralfamadorian time understanding (Lundquist 45). He uses Billy’s life as a
scapegoat in a way that somehow helps him talk and cope about his dramatic
experience. He is unable to forget the memory of his wartime perspicacity and
Dresden fire-storm. Vonnegut’s attempts to come to a conclusion with this
fatality ended up making this novel. His problem is how to form and focus on
the idea of the terrors from the bombing lacking reality (Lundquist 43). Vonnegut
makes a comment that, “There are almost no tense disputes in this story because
most of the people in it are so ill and so much the listless playthings of huge
forces (Cott 271).
Billy Pilgrim and
Kurt Vonnegut both have trouble coming to terms with their war experiences. The
way they view things are affected. But the ways they try to overcome the
tragedies are different. Billy travels in time and uses Tralfamadorianism to
aid him. Vonnegut uses time travel as well and writes his experience in the form
of a novel. Billy, on the other hand, doesn’t write a story, but he wants to befall
“unstuck in time.” By using the word “unstuck”, Vonnegut refers that Billy is
perception of war is a typical judgement day vision. No one can alter the
earthly world. For, “Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were the
past, the present and the future” (Vonnegut 60). His bliss in his search only occur
in the place of his creativity. The novel ends with the wrecking and seeking
for bodies in Dresden, with Billy having mixed images of life and death. A bird
then speaks to Billy. The bird has a better grasp on the real world than he
does. The amusement in this novel is one that causes anxiety about destruction,
tortures of war, and death.
War in Slaughterhouse- Five is an image of all
the harms of society. This novel is not a solution to the tragedy of war, but a
reply. It concentrated on the terrors of war, but also proposed that the best
response is to have distance while being nice to sufferers. These experiences
shaped both the author and Billy. These two men’s traumatic memories of war
caused them to have severe physiological problems. The author connects their
problems by making them cordial to one another. Man’s capability of overcoming terrible
experiences are seen by the use of Vonnegut’s writing.
Brett F. “Slaughterhouse-Five.” Novels for Students, edited by Diane
Telgen and Kevin Hile, vol.3, Gale, 1998, pp.270-272. Gale Virtual Reference
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Issues in Literature: War in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-five, edited by
Claudia durst Johnson, Gale Cengage Learning, 2011, pp.59-66.
James. “Facing the Cruelties of Civilization and Its Wars.” Social Issues in
Literature: Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, edited by Claudia Durst
Johnson, Gale Cengage Learning, 2011, pp.42-50.
Robert and Peter A. Scholl. “Vonnegut’s Denunciation of Tralfamadore.” Social
Issues in Literature: War in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, edited by
Claudia Durst Johnson, Gale Cengage Learning, 2011, pp.89-98.
Tony. “The Moral Problem of Billy’s Fantasies.” Social Issues in Literature:
War in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, edited by Claudia Durst
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Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty- Dance with
Death. Dell Publishing,1969.