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Analysis Of Slaughterhouse Five Antiwar Sentiments

935 words - 4 pages

Kurt Vonnegut, the author of Slaughterhouse-Five, provided a powerful first-hand account describing the horrific events of WWII. Vonnegut recounted the events and wrote about himself through the novels protagonists, Billy Pilgrim. He was pessimistic regarding the novel because he wrote, “It is so short and jumbled and jangled, because there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre” (Vonnegut 22). However, on the other spectrum critics considered it to be “one of the worlds greatest antiwar books”(Vonnegut Back cover). The controversial novel was published in 1969, which was over two decades after WWII. The time it took Vonnegut to write the novel is an indication of how difficult it was for him to write about the bombings. Vonnegut does not write the novel to portray the narrator as, “John Wayne or some of those other glamorous, war loving, dirty old men” (Vonnegut 14). Instead, he writes about the true chaos’s the narrator endured during his time in Dresden. Vonnegut’s novel consisted of events that reflected major societal and political movements, such as civil rights movements, and antiwar movements, within the United States during the 1960s.
One of the most significant societal movements during the 1960s was the Civil Rights movement, a coalition lead by many that voiced strong opposition to the war in Vietnam. Martin Luther King Jr was a huge voice for civil liberties, and according critic Mark Barringer, “Martin Luther King Jr openly expressed support for the antiwar movement on moral grounds…asserting that the war was draining much-needed resources from domestic programs”(Barringer 3). Martin Luther King Jr had a profound effect on the 1960s civil rights movement. He was eventually assassinated for his involvement with civil rights, which lead to massive civil unrest. In Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut describes the parallel relationship to the riots, while Billy is “on his way to the Lion’s Club meeting, Billy drives through the burned-out, wrecked neighborhood of Ilium black ghetto. Invoking race riots of the 1960’s and the D.C riots following King’s assassination more specifically”(Jarvis 99). When Billy drove down the streets of Ilium he mentioned, “[the streets] looked like Dresden after it was fire-bombed”(Vonnegut 59). Vonnegut does a phenomenal job of meshing the meaningful societal movements of the 1960s, with comparison to the agonizing events that occurred in Dresden.
The late 1960s also consisted of mass political movements that stemmed from the Vietnam War. According to Mark Barringer, the Vietnam antiwar movement “was one of the most divisive forces in twentieth-century U.S history”(Barringer 1). As Vonnegut is writing the novel, the antiwar movement was in full effect. The powerful movement was, “Encompassing political, racial, and cultural spheres [.] The anti war movement exposed a deep schism within the 1960s American Society”(Barringer 1). Throughout the novel, Vonnegut...

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