Trauma In Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five

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Kurt Vonnegut’s 1969 anti-war novel “Slaughterhouse-Five” focuses on illustrating two troublesome aspects in the life of the novel’s main character, Billy Pilgrim. The story’s non-linear narration smoothly flows between Billy’s experience during World War II and his post-war days, profoundly affected by the horrors he had experienced when fighting in Europe. Despite being a rather nondescript and passive soldier (he served as a chaplain’s assistant), Billy experienced the life of a prisoner of war and lived through the infamous bombing of Dresden. Those events proved to be inevitably traumatic and caused Bill to develop a deep-seated mental disorder, namely Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This mental condition most often affects individuals …show more content…

For instance, whenever a person dies in the novel, the narrator’s recurring comment is “So it goes.” While such an unsentimental remark may at first portray the narrator as cold and emotionless, over time, the reader finds that this way of referring to his wartime memories seems to be his coping mechanism. Rather than reminiscing on all the deaths the narrator has witnessed, he chooses not to reopen his old wounds and instead adopts a rather detached approach. Similarly, the way that the narrator recalls the bombing of Dresden seems to be in a way evasive of the past and the actual horror that Vonnegut has witnessed himself as a young soldier. Instead of hearing about the bombings from the author’s perspective, the reader learns about the event primarily by eavesdropping on the German guards who held the American soldiers captive in a derelict slaughterhouse. Again, rather than describing the war atrocities firsthand, the narrator deliberately avoids retrieving those traumatic events from his memory and, presumably just to stay sane, relies on other people’s

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