How Did Kurt Vonnegut Impact On War

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Kurt Vonnegut’s experience in war directly influenced the antiwar theme seen in his novels, which changed the way people view war.

'I'm a member of what I believe to be the last recognizable generation of full-time, life-time novelists”. Known for his popular semi-autobiographical war novel, Slaughterhouse five, Kurt Vonnegut is an influential anti-war writer, who preached pacifism through his satirical writing style. This essay will look into his experience in war, and how this is reflected through themes in his novels, challenging society, ultimately proving that Vonnegut’s previous experience at war directly influenced the themes seen throughout his novels, which have changed the way people view war.

Kurt Vonnegut is a prolific writer …show more content…

Opening with “All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true.”, Kurt Vonnegut’s time as a prisoner of war in Dresden is well documented in his novel Slaughterhouse-5. The entire first chapter of the novel has Vonnegut talking about the events leading up to him writing it, and how he “thought it would be easy for me to write about the destruction of Dresden, since all I had to do would be to report what I had seen.”. He talks about how he has been wanting to write a book about his experiences in Dresden since he returned, but found it difficult, saying “Not many words about Dresden came from my mind then- not enough of them to fill a book, anyway. And not many words come now, either”. Obviously the events and experiences in Dresden had a profound effect on Vonnegut, so much so that it was too difficult for him to write a book about it from his own perspective, instead writing about a fictional man called Billy Pilgrim. Speaking through this character in Slaughterhouse-5, Vonnegut explains, “Ever since the war, Billy’s whole life had been tainted. He could not think of a happy memory, without at some point thinking of the war. His whole past had been ruined. When he travelled forward in time, he still ended up going back to the war, this was showing that in the future, even in his death bed, he would not be able to escape the horrors …show more content…

““Is it an anti-war book?” “yes,” I said. “I guess.”” Straight from the first couple pages of Slaughterhouse-5, this quote immediately informs the reader of Vonnegut’s stance on war, which he has never skied away or backed down from. He later refers to wars as ‘massacres’, whilst telling his sons “they are not under any circumstances to take part in massacres, and that the news of massacres of enemies is not to fill them with satisfaction or glee. I have also told them not to work for companies which make massacre machinery, and to express contempt for people who think we need machinery like that.”. This shows that Vonnegut believes that war is the organised mess of nonsensical killing, and the news twists it in such a way as to get respect and honour from those watching. The point of making war seem admirable is reiterated later on in the novel, with the wife of Vonnegut’s war friend saying “You’ll pretend you were men instead of babies, and you’ll be played in the movies by Frank Sinatra and John Wayne or some of those other glamorous, war loving, dirty old men. And war will look just wonderful, so we’ll have a lot more of them.”. Just by including this quote in his novel, Kurt Vonnegut has reached many people, and everyone who has ever read that line has reevaluated and challenged the way both society and themselves view war.

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