Symbols In Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five

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World War II proves to be one of the most appalling events in history. Kurt Vonnegut unintentionally takes advantage of the war’s atrocities in his novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. Billy Pilgrim, a former prisoner of war and survivor of the Dresden bombing, comes unstuck in time, meaning he can travel between moments in his life. His condition hints at instability as he also meets aliens, or the Tralfamadorians, who live on a utopian planet. He relays the events and stories of the people he encounters throughout his journey. Vonnegut writes the characters’ stories with purposeful syntax, tone, symbols, and motifs to highlight how war changes a person’s notions about society.
Vonnegut displays the stark and unglorified aspects of death through his
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The chosen emblems relate Vonnegut’s far-off notions to more applicable realities. For example, at the very end of the war, “One bird said to Billy Pilgrim, ‘Poo-tee-weet?’” (Vonnegut 215). In connection with the theme, the author includes this symbolic chirp of a bird. He first explains the tweet in chapter one as a part of his description of the book; the birds are the only ones left after a massacre and they question why life occurs the way that it does. At the end of the novel, Vonnegut brings back the chirp after the war is over and all the people that Billy knows are gone. All of the loss that Billy experiences ultimately leads to his concluding mental condition, which, according to critic F. Brett Cox, is “a symbol of the shock, confusion, dislocation, and desire for escape that result from the horrible experiences of war.” These effects personify the lone bird that Billy hears after the fighting ends. The bird inquires about the atrocities of the war and how it has influenced the lives of the soldiers. Although the bird’s question goes partially unanswered, it helps to raise an eyebrow or two about the soldiers’ suffering. The pitiful men in Europe compare to the German and French children as “They [are] no doubt idle and deserted children who generally swarm in great cities… and ready for anything” (Vonnegut 16). The crusaders of the real …show more content…
Demonstrating the little power that people have, one of the numerous outside texts in the novel pronounces “God grant me / The serenity to accept / The things I cannot change, / Courage / To change the things I can, / And wisdom always / To tell the / Difference. Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were the past, the present and the future” (Vonnegut 60). The Tralfamadorians, aliens from the planet Tralfamadore, have a realistically ideal perspective on life. Vonnegut contrasts their viewpoint with the helpless “Earthlings” because humans are naive in thinking that they can control their lives. The Tralfamadorians understand that there is no such thing as “free will,” a concept that only humans hold. While talking to the aliens, Billy learns that one of their pilots ends the universe by blowing it up. He proceeds to chat with a Tralfamadorian guide and asks, “‘If you know this,’ said Billy, ‘isn’t there some way you can prevent… the pilot from pressing the button?’ ‘He has always pressed it, and he always will. We always let him and we always will let him. The moment is structured that way’” (Vonnegut 117). Everything in time happens a certain way and the Tralfamadorians do not attempt to alter any moment; they merely accept it. Critic David L. Vanderwerken recognizes that “The upshot of the Tralfamadorian philosophy finds expression in a cliché: ‘Everything

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