Defense Mechanisms In Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five

1044 Words5 Pages

In the face of adversity, when life's traumatic circumstances persist, individuals are often left with the burden of many psychological wounds. The trauma left on a person's psyche can make it very difficult to cope with and as a result, they distance themselves from the unpleasantness of the situation through the use of defense mechanisms. Various forms of literature contain characters that exhibit numerous defense mechanisms. In doing so, it enables the readers to utilize the psychoanalytic critical theory lens to depict the elements that encompass said character's personality. One example of this, is the book Slaughterhouse-Five written by Kurt Vonnegut whereby the protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, is subjected to the incomprehensible horrors …show more content…

In Billy's world, times of hardship are often incomprehensible to his mind; however, through the means of denial, he is able to distort the harsh realities of his life. This enables him to create a psychological barrier to obtain a sense of control over his experiences. Billy’s delusion of being “...unstuck in time” (19) can be interpreted as a form of his denial about normal progression of time and reality. It symbolizes his ability to detach himself from the emotional toll by depicting the memories that help him retreat from the guilt he feels in association with the war. The Tralfamadorians present a seemingly logical perspective surrounding the topic of time and reality by stating, “There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time” (38). This message induces conflict between the id and the superego by persuading a change in Billy's perception of realism. The ego however, seeks to satisfy both aspects and in doing so, it persistently resorts to denying the chronological order of his experiences. Billy's manipulation of the defense mechanism denial, alters his behavior by refusing to acknowledge actualism and naturally occurring time to protect his

Open Document