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Literary Criticism Of "Slaughter House Five", By Kurt Vonnegut.

1846 words - 7 pages

Destruction of Dresden, destruction of Vonnegut's dreamThe little dream Vonnegut took with him to war was not founded on the rubble of insanity, absurdity, and irrationality that he experienced in WWII. His dream was founded on order, stability, and justice. It was founded on what Dresden symbolized. And when Dresden evaporated so too did Vonnegut's dream. (Klinkowitz 223)Vonnegut's views on death, war, technology and human nature were all affected by his experience in Dresden and these themes become evident in his novels. The common thread between all of Vonnegut's themes is war. The bombing of Dresden had a profound impact on the life and writing of Kurt Vonnegut. "Rarely has a single incident so dominated the work of a writer" (Goldsmith IX). World War II shaped many of Kurt Vonnegut's philosophies that appear in his novels, especially Slaughterhouse Five. "With Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut was able to deal directly with his war time nightmare" (Klinkowitz 225). In Slaughterhouse Five we witness a moment of balance in Vonnegut's life when he finds himself capable of dealing with the intense pain of his Dresden experience and ready to go on with the business of living. "If the war becomes a general metaphor for Vonnegut's vision of human condition, Dresden becomes the symbol, the quintessence" (Reed 186). What made the Dresden bombing even more horrible to Vonnegut was that as a prisoner, he was ironically protected from the bombs and fire. Planes from his country did the bombing, and he was perpetrator, observer and target all at the same time (Goldsmith ix).Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was born on November 11, 1922 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He later served in the US Army Infantry. He was captured after the Battle of the Bulge and sent to Dresden to work in a factory. After being awarded the Purple Heart in 1967, he received the Guggenheim Fellowship to research Slaughterhouse Five. Slaughterhouse Five took Vonnegut twenty years to write. He was torn for years between a desire to forget Dresden, and a passion to reconcile what he saw there. Vonnegut says of Slaughterhouse Five: "I hate to tell you what this lousy little book cost me in money and anxiety and time. When I got home from WWII twenty-three years ago, I thought it would be easy for me to write about the destruction of Dresden, since all I would have to do is report what I have seen" (Vonnegut 2). He also says, "It is so short and jangled because there is nothing intelligent to say about the massacre" (Boyce 7015). From Dresden, he developed his existential philosophy and his ideasabout the evils of technology. Dresden shows up in each of his novels. Slaughterhouse Five ultimately led to Dresden and the disturbing and unanswerable question for him of why man destroys and kills (Schatt 89). Death comes up frequently in his works. Itis Vonnegut's belief that death is too important to ignore, yet is nothing to fear. "To fear either life or death, to be immobilized by fright or horror or grief...

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