Thin Red Line Analysis

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World War 2 was a dark time in human history, where unprecedented amounts of bloodshed, and evil took place, but at the same time, heroism and bravery rose from it as well. Unfortunately, in creating stories about the war, it is too easy to omit the horrors and to focus solely on the glorifying war. Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5 and Malik’s Thin Red Line are two examples of that do not fall into this dangerous trap. Both are depictions of the war, albeit from two different theatres; Vonnegut bases his story on his experiences at Dresden, while Thin Red Line tells the story of Guadalcanal, on the Pacific Front. Both works emphasizes the gritty reality of war, with Vonnegut focusing on the firebombing of Dresden, where thousands of civilians were…show more content…
In the scene where the Allied soldiers clear out the bunker, and have captured surrendered two Japanese soldiers, Malik has Private Witt execute one of the Japanese before being stopped. Before, and even during the fighting, Malik makes sure to humanize the Americans. They were normal people that felt pain, remorse, and fear, normal reactions to a surreal scenario. Yet, after the Americans take the bunker, and gain the advantage, soldiers begin to break down mentally. Instead of mercy, Witt kills a surrendered Japanese soldier, while hurling slurs at him. Witt uses aggression as a coping method to get through this war. His slurs show that he internalizes the propaganda that dehumanization of the Japanese, and him killing the surrendered soldier is the manifestation of that aggression . Wild Bob in Slaughterhouse Five is never given the opportunity to assert his anger onto the Germans; he dies unceremoniously in a train car as a POW. However, during his last moments, he “imagined that he was addressing his beloved troops for the last time,” (85). The use of “imaged” suggests that Wild Bob is living in a fantasy. He has to resort to the fantasy because of how bleak his reality currently is. Instead of being captured and slowly dying of infection, Wild Bob thought that, “there were dead Germans all over the battlefield who wished to God that they never…show more content…
In Private Witt’s narration, he says, “War don’t ennoble men. Turns ‘em into dogs. Poisons the soul,”. He understands the grim reality that he is in, and directly addresses the glorification of war, and how war doesn’t have any glory. His cynical view of being turned into, “dogs” and “poison[ed]” shows that he is aware of the transformative effect war has on him. As he narrates, we see soldiers, first playing in the ocean, then fist fighting amongst each other, then finally a shot of someone breaking down mentally and then crying in the rain. The rapid change in emotions, from happiness to anger to sadness gives a sense of disjointness. The emotions are not a logical progression from one to another, but in the context of war, the emotions overwhelm the soldiers, who do not have time to stop and think. These soldiers, who were once normal people, go through the entire spectrum of human emotion within three shots. Vonnegut has Billy go through a similar episode where, after the bombing, Billy met a couple who, “scolded him in English for the conditions of the horses. They made Billy get out of the wagon and come look at the horses. When Billy saw the condition of his means of transportation, he burst into tears. He hadn 't cried about anything else in the war,” (252). Like the Americans in Guadalcanal, once Billy was given the
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