Kurt Vonnegut's novel, Slaughterhouse Five, explores the horrors of war and its damaging effects on both individuals and societies. The protagonist of the story, Billy Pilgrim, is thrown into a chaotic world and forced to face unfathomable hardships. Through his choices, he demonstrates values such as heroism, resilience and compassion that provide a deeper understanding of the themes in Slaughterhouse Five. His ultimate sacrifice shows how even in dire circumstances one can take charge of their life journey. By analyzing his sacrifice through his values, this essay elucidates how it illuminates an even deeper meaning for Slaughterhouse Five as a whole.
Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse Five revolves around the life of Billy Pilgrim. Though …show more content…
During World War II, Billy survives being captured and put in a concentration camp; despite overwhelming odds he remains determined to survive. On several occasions he puts himself at risk to help others, demonstrating his value of compassion. For example, when Ed Barrow tells him that “we” can leave after the bombing of Dresden begins and save themselves without anyone else if they go now, Billy decides not to abandon their fellow prisoners falling deeper into peril with each passing second: ”Billy shook his head no'' (Vonnegut 102). Even though saving himself would be easy under such desperate circumstances, Billy stays behind due to his conviction of doing what is right above all else. Additionally this act reveals Billy's heroism as he not only stays but also attempts to get some of the men out- sacrificing his own safety for theirs when nobody else will even acknowledge them as human beings. This scene demonstrates how deeply compassionate Billy truly is towards those around him, despite having already gone through adversity himself which again highlights the main theme throughout the book- resilience in the face of adversity. This is seen most notably during its climax when Trafalmadorians abduct him from Earth; instead of succumbing under their control and accepting whatever happens like other characters do throughout their time travel adventures, it’s noted that “Trafalmadorans [are] learning from [him], since nobody had ever thought about staying alive before "(Vonnegut 147). Then comes Billy’s ultimate sacrifice, accepting death for faith in himself. Ultimately, this leads him back home with an embrace of his own mortality and a reaffirmation of his obsession with his own
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1. “… and then suffered a mild nervous collapse. He was treated in a veteran’s hospital near Lake Placid, and was given shock treatments and released.” (Vonnegut,24) This quote has to do with Billy’s mental health because it states he had a breakdown and spent time in a hospital for treatment.
Billy experienced how he spent time in the hospital in the POW camp in Germany and talked about what he saw and felt while he was there. When suffering from PTSD, victims replay their exact experiences in their head over and over again because it is too hard to push the memory aside and forget. People may see Billy reliving his life experiences as being”unstuck in time” when really he isn’t experiencing those actions right then and there, he is having flashbacks of what he suffered through in the war. Being "unstuck in time” would be a good way to describe Billy Pilgrim if he hadn’t gone through the terrifying experiences in the war. In the book, Billy is described as never knowing what part of his life he was going to live next.
(144-145). Vonnegut here uses Billy to destroy the fantasy created around war. War is not all looks and victorious stories, it is painful and hard to survive. This clearly demonstrates that Vonnegut believes the beauty created around war needs to be ended, and if society truly saw the trauma created by war, they would never occur. Another strong connection Vonnegut creates to enhance the anti-war message regards the birds present after the massacre of Dresden.
But one night in February of 1945, Dresden is bombed. 130,000 people die. Billy and the others wait out the bombing in a meat cellar. With no food or water, they trek out to the suburbs. When that work is over, Billy and the other men return to the stable to wait out the rest of the war.
Billy eventually accepts the views of the Tralfamadorians as the lack of free will is prevalent is his life. He is drafted against his will to participate in a war he has no drive to fight in. He has a notable lack of training, is innapropriately dressed as Cinderella, is generally indifferent about his survival, and yet manages to live while those around him
Billy is the most passive character in the history of literature. Ordinarily, time travel is one of the most exciting superhuman abilities, but in Billy’s case it lets him see the future and let it happen. For example, in the book Billy gets abducted by aliens on his own free will; “ Billy saw the war movie… then it was time to go out into his backyard to meet the flying saucer… He would not raise his eyes to the sky, though he knew there was a flying saucer from Tralfamadore up there. He would see it soon enough, inside and out, and he would see, too, where it came from soon enough-soon enough.”
It is easy to say that this event in Billy’s life was a traumatic one, and obviously one he thinks about often, since he decides to “travel” back to it. It is possible that Billy was unable to fully understand what this event did to him and with this, is unable find closure with it. This, in a way, foreshadows into Billy’s life as an adult and his ability to deal with adulthood traumas, such as WWII and more specifically the firebombing of Dresden. Childhood trauma is a risk factor which “makes a person more likely to develop PTSD” (National Institute of Mental Health). Since Billy was unable to develop the skills necessary to get past trauma as a child, and therefore
Even what Mary says, “You were just babies in the war-- Like the ones upstairs!” (Vonnegut, 14) Where they were sent to battle without a choice and were simply put there. This led him to give up his life and understand that he does not have a choice. On Tralfamadore, Billy is also forced to be somewhere, in a zoo, where he is forced to live in a dome. “Billy was displayed there in a zoo in a simulated Earthling habitat.”
PTSD has been associated with long-term exposure to warfare or other threats to a person’s life , to which Billy have had encounters with throughout the duration of the war. Evidence of Billy's PTSD include the fact that he ascribed the faces of the guards in Dresden, in reaction to the bombing, as “a silent film of a barbershop quartet” (pg. 178), likely due to the indescribable nature of the violence. Subsequently in Billy’s life, as he travels with his father-in-law to Montreal via a chartered plane, the singing of a barbershop quartet named ‘The Febs’ triggers a series of memories of the war for Billy, including the hanging of a “Pole” (in reference to a Polish person) “in public, three days after (he) got to Dresden” (pg.
Billy then explains to Weary and the scouts to go on without him, but Weary insists on helping Billy. The scouts have had enough of Weary and Billy so they leave them. Soon after Billy and Weary get seized by German soldiers. After being sent place to place by the Germans, Billy eventually ends up in Dresden. Billy stays in Dresden for two days when out of nowhere the Allies fire bomb it.
To understand the history of past cultures, it is imperative that both sides are heard. Many novels continually showcase this new outlook on history. Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, demonstrates the New Historicism perspective with subjective accounts, reflections of the time it is written, and lack of the opposing side ’s outlook. To begin, New Historicism is showcased by subjective accounts that are apparent in developing the
Billy is said to become unstuck in time to different events in his life. He flashes to memories of Dresden, which is the war that he participated in. He also has episodes of his flight crash, he knows how he will die, and how his wife dies. This book is so sporadic, the audience never truly knows when this book is taking place in Billy’s life. Each page could contain three or more different events in Billy’s
Vonnegut’s novel is more of a science-fiction novel and references time traveling and aliens. The jumping around of events throughout the book makes it hard to concentrate on the timeline of the book. At one point Vonnegut writes how Billy Pilgrim is “simultaneously on foot in Germany in 1944 and riding his Cadillac in 1967.” (Vonnegut 58) This passage from the novel illustrates how the storyline of Slaughterhouse-Five becomes convoluted due to Vonnegut’s sporadic use of fantasy.
Title: Slaughterhouse-Five Author: Kurt Vonnegut Thesis: Throughout KVs SF, he describes in matter of fact way the psychological impact/effects of the devastation of war and death upon Billy Pilgrim and how he handles it. Through the exploration of Billy Pilgrim’s detached and indifferent thoughts, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five illustrates the coping mechanisms of a World War II veteran with post traumatic stress disorder.