Imagery In Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five

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In Kurt Vonnegut’s book Slaughterhouse-Five he introduces the reader to biblical, literary, and historical references. One of the first references alludes to the Bible. Vonnegut writes about how “Lot's wife… was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back…[so] she was turned into a pillar of salt”(Vonnegut 21-2). Lot’s wife looked back at the destruction of Sodom because she simply could not help not looking at all of the lives that were taken. Vonnegut references this particular story from the Bible in his first chapter because he is about to look back at Dresden: evil and destruction. Vonnegut looked back at the fiery pits of war by writing Slaughterhouse-Five. Although Cinderella and Billy…show more content…
Kurt Vonnegut uses strong forms of imagery through his book. During the war, Billy suffered greatly; the nights in Dresden were cold and lonely. The most important form of imagery is visual; Vonnegut explains how, “Billy got out of bed in the moonlight. He felt spooky and luminous, felt as though he were wrapped in cool fur that was full of static electricity. He looked down at his bare feet. They were ivory and blue” (Vonnegut 72). Vonnegut utilizes strong visual words to create a clear picture of the cool and somber night. The most unsettling description was of Billy’s feet; their color is corpse like, yet he is alive. Vonnegut describes them in that way to show that life and death are closely related. Vonnegut not only uses visual imagery, but also olfactory. As Billy cleans up the rotting cadavers, Vonnegut describes them by saying they “rotted and liquefied, and the stink was like roses and mustard gas”(Vonnegut 214). Roses and mustard gas are distinct smells; one brings memories of love, and the other of war. The description of something smelling like roses and mustard gas appears three times. The putrid smell is a symbol for the memories of war during Billy’s life, and the roses serve as a reminder of the great times while he fought. The last example of imagery is when Billy describes Tralfamadorians to the newspaper; he says they are, “two feet high, and green, and shaped like plumber’s friends.…show more content…
The nonpareil example is the epigraph that reads, “Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt”(Vonnegut 122). Vonnegut utilizes extreme words such as “Everything” and “Nothing” to make it obvious to the audience that he was not being serious. It is ironic that Billy chose that epigraph because his life has been miserable. Vonnegut continues to make up words or sounds, one of them being “Poo-tee-wee”(Vonnegut 215). The sound or word serves to ask an unanswerable question: why war? Vonnegut repeats this sound twice in the book, making sure to place it in just the right place. The last example is also extreme in in word choice. While in the hospital, Billy’s roommate believed that only the strong should survive, but “the staff…[believed] that nobody should die”(Vonnegut 193). Again, Vonnegut uses the word nobody to be extreme, and to satirize people who think death should not occur. Death is natural and inevitable. Everyone is dying at this moment, yet everyone is still
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