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The Children's Crusade: Innocence, Masculinity, And Humanity

1870 words - 7 pages

  Are wars still being fought by children. One could argue “no”, but others will say “yes”. Men go into war everyday, but many are not even fully grown. In Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, he uses some of his own personal experiences to show the realities of war by examples of innocence, masculinity, and humanity through his main character Billy Pilgrim. Billy can supposedly time travel after being kidnapped by aliens from Tralfamadore and uses it to travel to his time in WWII were he experienced the bombing of Dresden and also travels to his past and future where he can visit other moments in his life.
  One of the underlying issues shown in Vonnegut's book is how innocent the soldiers are that are fighting in WWII. Towards the beginning of the book, Vonnegut visits his friend O’Hare when O’Hare’s wife, Mary, confronts Vonnegut on him writing his book, stating that they were "just babies in the war". After her statement, he acknowledges that they were indeed just "virgins in the war, right at the end of childhood"(Vonnegut, 11). When going to war, he and others were unprepared both mentally and physically. The soldiers were naive and did not know what they were really getting themselves into and the dangers they faced. They were babies for the most part with most coming fresh out of high school while some had not even finished. They were leaving the comforts of home to fight in a war they did not know much about. After Mary’s rant, Vonnegut named his book The Children's Crusade after being called children fighting in war(Kunze 45). The name was also brought up again when referring to Billy and the other American soldiers while at a German detainment camp. After being cleaned and shaven, did the Englishmen finally noticed how young and innocent the soldiers really were. The head Englishman comments on the age of most of the American soldiers telling Edgar Derby that they "have to imagine that the war is being fought by aging men like themselves, that they forget that the war is being fought by babies," and later refers to the war as the The Children's Crusade(Vonnegut 50). There were not many “aging men” to fight in WWII, not enough to supply, but there were plenty of boys to send off, but with having “boys”, their behaviors have to be dealt with.
   There are many types of behaviors going on throughout the war and most of the soldiers' behavior is childish in a way. There is Ronald Weary,the soldier who unhappily watches out for Billy while finding more American troops, who comes up with the idea of him and two other soldiers being the Three Musketeers. Pretending to be a fictional character is something that children would do, but Weary is basically a kid himself. He was only eighteen when he was shipped out, so he was fresh out of high school. The idea of being a hero is not that far beneath him, and besides, many children want to become a hero when they get older so why not he(Kunze 46). Weary does have an unnatural need to be...

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