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Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five: An Analysis

Powerful Essays
A twenty-two year old prisoner of war emerges from the slaughterhouse where he works to see a formerly beautiful city reduced to nothing but rubble and embers. This man would go on to remove close to 30,000 corpses before seeing them incinerated. This experience would go on to haunt and plague Kurt Vonnegut for years on end. His experience of this event led him to write Slaughterhouse-Five, the story of Billy Pilgrim, who was also an American soldier who experienced the firebombing of Dresden and lived to tell about it. By drawing parallels between himself and Billy Pilgrim, providing philosophies and points of view, and recalling wartime events from WWII in the wake of a new war, Kurt Vonnegut brings many new concepts to the hypothetical table…show more content…
Vonnegut, like the hero of his story, was captured at the Battle of the Bulge and taken as a POW (“Kurt,” Writing). This capture brought Vonnegut to Dresden, where he experienced the massacre of the firebombings, and was “accorded the dubious pleasure of witnessing a 20th-Century apocalypse” (“At Last”). Much like Pilgrim, who also survived the same bombings, only because he “was down in the meat locker on the night that Dresden was destroyed” (Vonnegut 226). Vonnegut, struggling to write about Dresden, found a way to do so in exploring the experience through Pilgrim’s eyes. Though not exclusively, as Roland Weary, another character, also shares some traits with Vonnegut. While he was writing the novel, Vonnegut wished to reminisce with an old veteran buddy, common among many veterans of the war. However, as he arrived, he was not treated to a warm, dark, fire-lit room where “two old soldiers could drink and talk” (Weiner). Vonnegut mentions early on that some of the other lesser details of the story are just as true as the rest: “One guy I knew really was shot in Dresden for taking a teapot that wasn’t his. Another guy I knew really did threaten to have his personal enemies killed by hired gunmen after the war” (Vonnegut 1). Paul Lazzaro, the new identity given to an actual fellow POW, tells Billy that anyone who tries to touch him should kill him, lest Lazzaro have them killed in return (Vonnegut 175). Billy, after surviving the dreadful events of the novel that far, was just as traumatized by Lazzaro’s story of revenge against a dog. Similarly, he later reminisces about “the poor old high school teacher, Edgar Derby,” who was caught “with a teapot he had taken from the catacombs” before being “tried and shot” (Vonnegut 274). These parallels of Pilgrim and Vonnegut highlight the events of both men 's lives,
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