Vonnegut's Narrative Techniques In Slaughterhouse Five

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Through the wild episodes of Slaughterhouse-5, Vonnegut follows Billy Pilgrim, a man whose mind has become “unstuck” due to the horrors of war. The semi-autobiographical novel spirals through Billy’s life, creating a dizzying and broad narrative touching on the countless unnamed people through arbitrarily linked segments. A major aspect of the novel is the trauma Billy experiences throughout the war, conveying Vonnegut’s own suffering and allowing the audience to empathise with both. Vonnegut explores the manner in which experiences in war warp Billy’s emotional responses to people and events around him, as he is unable to empathise with others long after the war is over. He ultimately condemns this, and encourages the audience to disapprove …show more content…
Vonnegut begins Billy’s narrative with the word “listen”, asking the audience to think carefully of what he has to say. The narrator describes Billy unfavourably, calling him a “filthy flamingo,” who was “bleakly ready for death”. By describing him like this, Vonnegut reinforces how pitiful Billy is. This is also linked to the broader narrative, as Billy reinforces how young and unprepared many soldiers were during the war. Situations are also described unsympathetically, with passages of joy mixed closely with those of immense suffering. One man “had a pleasant little apartment, and his daughter was getting an excellent education. His mother was incinerated in the Dresden fire-storm”. This mirrors the manner in which periods of horror were mixed in with happier ones in Billy’s experiences of the war. It also reflects the inability Billy has to distinguish between the two, as they intermingled so closely for him. The narrators tone is used to describe the manner in which Billy is emotionally stunted, and to convey how pitiful he is

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