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The Biblical Allusion Of Lot's Wife In Slaughterhouse Five

2050 words - 8 pages

Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five, uses the biblical allusion of Lot’s wife looking back on the destroyed cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to parallel the story of Billy Pilgrim during the war and his experience after, when he returns to the United States. Although the reference is brief, it has profound implications to the portrayal of America during World War II, especially the bombing of Dresden. Although Lot’s wife’s action dooms her to turn into a pillar of salt, the narrator emphasizes her choice to indicate the importance of being compassionate and having hindsight. Ultimately, Slaughterhouse-Five critiques the American social attitude to disregard the unjust nature of its actions in World War II. Furthermore, Vonnegut’s novel explicates this by elucidating the horrors of war—especially in regard to the massacre of innocence, how it leaves the soldiers stagnant when they return home, and leaves them empty with an American Dream that cannot be fulfilled. In order to combat violence, the novel stresses that one must hold human life to a higher value and be compassionate towards others; America must acknowledge its mistakes so that the soldiers who fought and died for her so that the soldiers may move on.
The narrator appreciates Lot’s wife deeply because she “looks back” which is what American society fails to do after World War II and, in doing so, fails to recognize their own faults. Rumfoord epitomizes this attitude when he tells Billy, a survivor of the Dresden firebombing, that the bombing of Dresden “had to be done” (253). The diction of ‘had’ and the emphasis placed on it indicates an attitude that America’s obliged to destroy the unarmed, civilian city. Furthermore, ‘done’ has a double meaning in the sentence. The word ‘done’ means both completed and denotes the social acceptance of the action. The definition of done is indicative of the status quo most Americans wanted to keep after the war: that they act in a necessary and socially acceptable manner. This attitude refuses to place blame on American government or soldiers for the massacre of over a hundred-thousand civilians. It makes slaughter socially acceptable and necessary. The attitude, championed by Rumfoord, does more than ignore the value of those lives lost, it refuses to acknowledge the right of the soldiers who participated and witnessed firebombing to receive an explanation for their actions. And, in both cases, innocents die or are unable to move forward from the event.
The allusion of Sodom and Gomorrah to Dresden is not a perfect parallel. God punishes Sodom and Gomorrah because the whole city teems with corruption and sinfulness, while Dresden represents the Nazi empire, but is not an inherently sinful place. However, the death of each implicates a loss of innocence. The Nazism is evil, but the people of Dresden represent a complicated evil. They may be part of the Nazi empire, but they act in a morally acceptable and socially...

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