Analysis Of Dresden Bombing In Slaughterhouse Five

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The bombing of Dresden was a joint United States-British operation that took place during the latter parts of World War 2. Around 2,000 Allied planes took part of the campaign, while Germany could only afford a mere 28 fighter planes to protect the city. By the end, 135,000 Germans had been killed. Kurt Vonnegut was unfortunate enough to have seen the events unfold, as uses that as the backdrop for Slaughterhouse-Five. Billy, the central character of the novel, is a veteran, though by the loosest definition, and more importantly a witness to the Dresden Bombing. Through Billy and Rumfoord 's unwillingness to fully address the Dresden bombing, with Rumfoord portraying it as a just act and Billy ignoring it altogether-Vonnegut suggests
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Rumfoord’s approach to addressing Dresden was to see it as a military success rather than a massacre of German civilians in order to distance his heroic view American army from the devastation that occurred. Dresden occurred near the conclusion of the European theatre, and caused the death of “135,000 people” (240). Unfortunately, civilians were the main target of the bombings, as, Dresden, “was not really a military necessity,” (240). That does not deter Rumfoord from declaring the razing of the city as a “howling success” (244). By calling it a “howling success,” the deaths of the civilians gets glossed over, while the legacy of the American army gets inflated. Rumfoord equates success with death toll, as killing civilians was the only thing accomplished by bombing Dresden. Rumfoord had to see it as a victory in order to fit the narrative of his book, where the Americans were portrayed as liberators. By calling it a success, Dresden seemed like any other event during the war and the American army didn’t have to bear the moral burden of killing thousands of people. As it was portrayed as an ordinary battle. Rumfoord then goes on to say, “For fear that a lot of bleeding hearts might not think it was such a wonderful thing to do,” (245). Bleeding heart has a negative connotation, as it is …show more content…
Through the majority of the novel, Dresden was never mentioned explictly; rather, Vonnegut alludes to the fact with Billy’s PTSD, as Billy, “would weep quietly and privately sometimes, but never make loud boohooing noises,” (252). The fact that Billy’s reason for crying was never named, and that he was forced to cry privately, indicates that Billy is traumatized by an unknown event. The lack of details on Billy’s depression adds to the somber mood, as Billy is seemingly tormented by something out of his comprehension. The theme of Billy being tormented from unexpected sources continues when he, “found himself upset by the song and the occasion...the quartet made slow, agonized experiments with chords,” (220) when he was listening to a barbershop quartet performing at his anniversary. Obviously, “slow” and “agonized” connote pain and suffering, just like the suffering of the people of Dresden. The fact that a seemingly innocent event, a musical performance, could trigger Billy’s PTSD goes to show that coping from Dresden was beyond his capabilities. Billy finally puts a name to his suffering when he, “found an association with an experience he had had long ago. He did not travel in time to the experience,” (226). He goes on to describe Dresden after he and his fellow American POWs and German guards exit out of the meat locker they were hiding in. The quartet connection comes from the

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