Symbolism In Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five

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Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, a decidedly non- heroic man who had become "unstuck in time”. The two central events in his life that he keeps returning to are his abduction by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore and his time as a soldier and prisoner of war during World War II, during which he witnesses the allied firebombing of the city of Dresden, Germany and as a result, more death than he had ever known possible.Through the forms of figurative language such as imagery and symbolism, in Kurt Vonnegut's anti-war novel “Slaughterhouse-Five” the author establishes the theme that due to the absence of free will and the inevitability of events, there is little reason to be concerned about death. Vonnegut …show more content…
Examples of symbolism are littered throughout the novel with the intentions of making signs of death seem ordinary. One example of symbolism that serves that purpose is found in Billy. Whenever Billy becomes cold, his feet are described as “blue and ivory”(Vonnegut). The phrase “ blue and ivory” is also used to describe Billy’s hands as he grips a bar inside the boxcar used to take him and the other prisoners of war to Germany and the feet of a hobo lying dead outside the train that will take Billy to Dresden. These cold and corpse like colors help to suggest the thin boundary between life and death. It creates the idea that even when we are alive we can take on characteristics of death. This shows the reader that death and aspects of death are an everyday circumstance which reduces the taboo elements associated with death. Another example of symbolism that develops the theme is the famous phrase “So it goes”(Vonnegut) which is used over one hundred times throughout the novel. The phrase “So it goes” follows every mention of death in the book, thus equalizing all of them. Every cause of death in the book is different whether it is natural, accidental, intentional, occurs in large numbers simultaneously, or occurs on a very personal level. The constant repetition of “So it goes” makes readers ask themselves about the meaning of death, or lack thereof, and the incalculable human costs of war. It serves as a constant reminder of the randomness of death and can come to anyone at any

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