Dark Humor In Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughter

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Dictionary.com defines dark humor as “a form of humor that regards human suffering as absurd rather than pitiable, or that considers human existence as ironic and pointless but somehow comic.” In Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, this concept of dark humor is used throughout to convey the actuality of war. By examining all aspects of war, Vonnegut approaches the cruelty of war from a variety of different perspectives in order to craft one, unified thesis about the meaning of war. Kurt Vonnegut proposes that wars are anything but wonderful by using dark humor and comedic techniques to distance the reader from tragedy in the plot in order to broaden the perspective on war as a whole.
By using dark comedy to undercut the effect of tragedy,
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After being captured by the Tralfamadorians, Billy is able to observe life on Earth from a completely different perspective. He realizes that the “Earthlings must be the terrors of the universe! If other planets aren’t now in danger from Earth, they soon will be. So tell me the secret so I can take it back to Earth and save us all: How can a planet live at peace” (116). While living on Earth, Billy fails to realize how foolish going to war is, especially considering the more logical solutions that achieve the same desire; however, with his newfound, unbiased view, he becomes aware of how destructive wars on Earth can be. Vonnegut uses a comedic approach from the Tralfamadorian perspective to illuminate how truly absurd wars are, and how from an outsider perspective it appears as if they are all fighting and killing each other for virtually nothing. Furthermore, the speaker at the Lions Club, a major in the marines, explains that the “Americans had no choice but to keep fighting in Vietnam until they achieved victory or until the Communists realized that they could not force their way of life on week countries,” and that the U.S. needs to bomb North Vietnam “back into the Stone Age, if it refused to see reason” (59-60). Vonnegut mocks the narcissism and pretentious mindset of Americans, conveying how they will go to the furthest degree only to show power and assert dominance. …show more content…
At one point in Billy’s adventures, he is able to watch a movie about war in reverse order. While seeing the movie in this way, he is able to see that the fighters from both sides of the war “made everything and everybody as good as new” (74). By seeing the movie in this way, Vonnegut highlights how truly merciless humans are towards each other during war. He uses the incongruity theory to put an inversion on the accepted plot line of a typical war movie. In doing this, the reader is able to get humor out of how ridiculous humans are during war, especially when considering the effects of war if it were to be inverted. Vonnegut also conveys how unnecessarily barbarous humans are when it comes to war. A british colonel explains that Billy “needn’t worry about bombs… Dresden is an open city. It is undefended, and contains no war industries or troop concentrations of any importance” (146). Vonnegut uses this naive englishmen as a way to expose the brutality of the Americans at war. Not only do the Americans bomb their enemies, but they also destroy the cities of innocent people. Vonnegut, again, uses the incongruity to create meaning, as the reader knows that Dresden does end up being completely obliterated by the Americans. By restating how Dresden was an innocent city with no means of harm, he emphasizes how cruel humans can be when it comes to war– especially since

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