The Horrors Of War In Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five

1984 Words 8 Pages
“So it goes.” These three words convey the fatalistic mindset of Kurt Vonnegut through the voice of Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist of Vonnegut’s novel, Slaughterhouse Five. The strength of Vonnegut’s novel lies in his own personal experiences, as he himself was an American prisoner of war, was captured in Germany, and then was transferred to the city of Dresden. Throughout the novel, Billy Pilgrim suffers flashbacks of the horrors of war, specifically those associated with the bombing of Dresden. By narrating the novel through the voice of Billy, Vonnegut conveys his belief that war is absurd, exemplified by the causes and effects of the firebombing of Dresden. A war can have a number of causes that lead to horrific consequences such as the …show more content…
One of the primary personal causes of war is mankind’s aptitude for cruelty. Vonnegut conveys this natural tendency through the destructive actions of Ronald Weary, a Prisoner of War alongside Billy, as Weary was a twisted individual who took pleasure in inflicting pain on others. Although Weary demonstrates an extreme version of this concept, his character also suggests that such repressed desires and tendencies towards violence are found in all human beings. Another factor that contributes to war is the desensitization to the violence of warfare; specifically when people refer to death as a natural part of war. The novel conveys this concept throughout, as the phrase “So it goes” (Vonnegut) appears each time there is a mention of death. In doing this, Vonnegut is suggesting that death has become an insignificant part of life, and that its occurrence is only the natural course of nature. By declaring death insignificant, war is even more likely, as death is assumed to be a natural part of war. Additionally, the senseless killing of others during the course of war demonstrates man’s inhumanity towards man. While the actions of an individual have the power to cause war, war also has the power to change the individual. Perhaps the most obvious example is in the way that war can drive once normal men to insanity. Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist of Slaughterhouse Five, is a wealthy optometrist, husband, and father, yet after his return from the war, he has undergone conditions that have driven him to the point of insanity, causing him to display crazy behavior and argue ridiculous concepts, such as the existence of aliens. War has the tendency to drive people to insanity; even civilians who merely witness the impact of war on their lives are affected. In Edda West’s eyewitness account of the bombing of Dresden, she describes a scenario in which she was trapped in a bomb cellar

Related Documents