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Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five A Great American Novel

1393 words - 6 pages

For a novel to be considered a Great American Novel, it must contain a theme that is uniquely American, a hero that is the essence of a great American, or relevance to the American people. Others argue, however, that the Great American Novel may never exist. They say that America and her image are constantly changing and therefore, there will never be a novel that can represent the country in its entirety. In his novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut writes about war and its destructiveness. Vonnegut tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, an unlikely hero, mentally scarred by World War Two. Kurt Vonnegut explains how war is so devastating it can ruin a person forever. These are topics that are reoccurring in American history and have a relevance to the American people thus making Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five a Great American Novel.
After serving in World War Two, Kurt Vonnegut wrote Slaughterhouse-Five about his experiences through Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist in the novel. Slaughterhouse-Five is a dark novel about war and death. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental disease that inflicts people who endured a traumatic event. Some of the common symptoms include flashbacks and creating alternate worlds which Billy Pilgrim experienced various times throughout Slaughterhouse-Five. Billy Pilgrim believes he has become “unstuck in time” (Vonnegut 29) and travels to different moments throughout his life. Pilgrim is never in one event for long and his flashbacks are triggered by almost everything he does. While his “time-traveling” is sporadic and never to a relevant time, all of Billy Pilgrims flashbacks are connected through actions done in each of the visions. Perhaps the most important flashback occurred at his wedding anniversary when he returned to the firebombing of Dresden. The sight of the barbershop quartet, at his party, reminded Billy Pilgrim of the German guards after seeing the sight of the city of Dresden after the bombing. Pilgrim recalled that the guards resembled a barbershop quartet as they “experimented with one expression and then another, saying nothing though their mouths were often open” (Vonnegut 227).
The night of February 13th to the morning of February 14th, 1945, Billy Pilgrim endured the firebombing of Dresden, which has come to be known as one of the worst bombings in history. More than 135,000 people were killed in the bombing and Pilgrim, along with a small group that took refuge in a meat locker, was one the few survivors of the bombing. Upon emerging, Billy Pilgrim and the soldiers discovered that “everybody in the city was supposed to be dead, regardless of what they were, and that anybody that moved represented a flaw in the design” (Vonnegut 180). The city of Dresden was compared to “the moon…, nothing but minerals” (Vonnegut 227). Even after the firebombing, the survivors were still surrounded in death-their method of transportation being a “coffin shaped wagon” (Vonnegut 278). ...

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