PTSD In Slaughterhouse-Five

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Post-traumatic stress disorder, also abbreviated as “PTSD,” is a mental disease that develops in those who have experienced a traumatizing or dangerous event and it affects an estimated 6.8% of Americans in their lifetime (National Institute of Mental Health, “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”). Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, follows Billy Pilgrim, a World War II soldier, on his adventures through both the war and after the war. Pilgrim believes that he is visited by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore and is abducted by them. Because he also thinks that he is able to “time travel” to different events throughout his own life, Pilgrim can be said to have PTSD. In fact, a section of the novel focuses in on Billy having PTSD and receiving…show more content…
(177) By including the passage in the novel, Vonnegut illustrates how devastating PTSD is for the mentality of a person since it is able to recreate an accurate depiction of the events that haunt a person’s consciousness. In addition, it is the only time in Slaughterhouse-Five that Pilgrim does not “time travel” to an event, bringing attention to the importance of the episode since it stands out from the entirety of the novel. Although the experience stands out from Billy’s normal PTSD symptom of “time travel,” it displays an additional symptom, proving that PTSD can have more than one impact on a person’s life. Furthermore, the author of the article “Themes and Construction: Slaughterhouse-Five” states, “The Tralfamadorian response to death is, "So it goes," and Vonnegut repeats this phrase at every point in the novel where someone, or something, dies.” (“Themes and Construction: Slaughterhouse-Five”). The phrase “So it goes” exhibits the theme of death as increasingly prominent throughout the novel. The theme plays a crucial role since it shows a desensitization to death within both Vonnegut, the character, and Billy Pilgrim that is a consequence of their post-traumatic stress disorder. To emphasize the theme, Vonnegut, in Chapter Ten, says, “The Earthling figure who is most engaging to the Tralfamadorian mind, he says, is Charles Darwin-who taught that those who die are meant to die, that corpses are improvements” (210). Pilgrim models…show more content…
To begin with, Vonnegut deals with his PTSD by distancing himself from the events that took place during World War II, creating a frame narrative for his novel, as displayed by Harris when he states, “Vonnegut-as-character introduces himself in Chapter One…Then, starting with Chapter Two, he begins narrating his novel, that is, the novel by the author-as-character within the novel by Vonnegut the author” (Harris, “Time, Uncertainty, and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: A Reading of Slaughterhouse-Five”). By including himself as a character within the novel and then by having the character narrate another novel, Vonnegut, the author, creates a frame narrative that twice removes him from the main action of the story. Since Vonnegut removes himself from the action, especially the scene at Dresden, he is able to cope with the traumatic incidents. Another way that coping with PTSD is shown in Slaughterhouse-Five, is worded by Chabot, who writes, “…Slaughterhouse-Five is something of a Tralfamadorian novel, and it surely meets many of the specifications. While we cannot read them at once, the novel is built up out of a series of brief fragments or episodes…” (Chabot, “’Slaughterhouse-Five’ and the Comforts of Indifference”). The novel is narrated by Billy’s various episodes of “time travel,” each
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