This website uses cookies to ensure you have the best experience. Learn more

The Madness Of War Essay

1914 words - 8 pages

War is the epitome of cruelty and violence, an experience that can prove maddening and strip away some of the most intrinsic characteristics of humanity. Kurt Vonnegut’s experiences as a prisoner of war during World War II inspired his critically hailed novel Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), in which characters continually search for meaning in the aftermath of mankind’s irrational cruelty ("Kurt Vonnegut: 1922-2007" 287). Both the main character, Billy Pilgrim, and Vonnegut have been in Dresden for the firebombing, and that is what motivates their narrative (Klinkowitz 335). In his anti-war novel Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut expresses the adverse emotional effects of war through the psyche of Billy Pilgrim.
Vonnegut’s distinct style conveys that the horrors of war are not only tragic, but inexplicable and absurd. His use of black humor, such as Billy's attempts to publicize his encounters with the Tralfamadorians, conveys the incongruity/senselessness of war (“Slaughterhouse-Five” 267). While this is an example of black humor in a larger plot element, the device can also be used in small details. This is evident in the description of the half-crazed Billy Pilgrim after the Battle of the Bulge. “Wind and cold and violent exercise had turned his face crimson” causing Billy to be designated by Vonnegut as a “filthy flamingo” (Vonnegut 42). By utilizing black humor, Vonnegut is able to convey not merely the tragedy, but also the absurdity, of an event.
Vonnegut’s uniqueness of style includes not only the descriptions of events but their arrangement as well. The narrator tells his friend that “It is so short and jumbled and jangled Sam, because there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre” (Vonnegut 24). Starting during his captivity behind German lines, Pilgrim can at any point be transported to any moment in his past or future causing one scene of Billy in a prison camp to be immediately followed by his wedding night or a scarring childhood memory (Cox 270). This peculiar organization of events parallels the psyche of Billy Pilgrim. Brent Cox states that “The novel's ‘short and jumbled and jangled’ structure reflects the condition of its protagonist” (270). Just like the order of events in the novel, Billy’s consciousness is a sporadic hodgepodge of unpredictable thoughts and feelings.
Furthermore, Vonnegut employs a simple prose style in describing overwhelming, horrible, and often inexplicable events. For example, as the Germans march Billy Pilgrim to a prison camp, he notes, "A motion-picture camera was set up at the border--to record the fabulous victory...One of them signaled out Billy's face for a moment, then focused at infinity again. There was a tiny plume of smoke at infinity. There was a battle there. People were dying there. So it goes" (Vonnegut 83). These vivid, yet simple details force the reader to confront the fundamental horror and absurdity of war. The novel's skilled use of humor, innovative structure,...

Find Another Essay On The Madness of War

An Exploration of the Way Shakespeare Presents Madness in Hamlet

3145 words - 13 pages An Exploration of the Way Shakespeare Presents Madness in Hamlet Does Shakespeare intend to present Hamlet and Ophelia as insane? This is a question which has baffled English literary critics for more than 400 years. There is still no definite answer, and throughout the play there are numerous points where you stop and wonder whether Hamlet and Ophelia are sane or not. They both change dramatically from one scene to

The Life of Robert Lewis: Method or Madness?

1004 words - 5 pages Lewis was also an author. His writings flourished in his later years of life. In 1957, Method-- or Madness? was released. The text was a transcript of Lewis’s renowned lectures. Lewis’s teaching and lectures were based off of “method acting”, which is an acting approach made popular by the great Constantin Stanislavski. Advice to the Players was released in 1980. Slings and Arrows, his autobiography, was published in 1984. He also made a sequel to

The Madness of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire

1780 words - 7 pages Tennessee Williams wrote about Blanche DuBois: 'She was a demonic character; the size of her feelings was too great for her to contain without the escape of madness.' Williams uses Blanche DuBois as a vehicle to explore several themes that interested him, one of these being madness. His own sister, Rose, was lobotomised in his absence and later institutionalised leading many critics to believe that the character of Blanche may have

Reefer Madness Is Spreading! An Analysis of the Controversial Film of the late 1930's "Reefer Madness"

967 words - 4 pages In the late 1930's a film was released to supposedly educate society on the horrible epidemic that the drug marijuana had created. The film Reefer Madness hit the theaters in hopes to steer people away from using marijuana. The film starts by showing headlines about how marijuana abuse is spreading across the United States of America rapidly and must be halted. Parents are told to learn about the evils of marijuana and to steer their children

Comparing the Treatment of Madness in The Bell Jar and The Yellow Wallpaper

1055 words - 4 pages Treatment of Madness in The Bell Jar and The Yellow Wallpaper   Mental illness and madness is a theme often explored in literature and the range of texts exploring these is tremendously varied. Various factors can threaten a character's sanity, ranging from traumatic events which trigger a decline to pressure from more vast, impersonal sources. Generally speaking, writers have tried to show that most threats to sanity comprise a

The Importance of Madness as a Theme in Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

997 words - 4 pages The Importance of Madness as a Theme in Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare Madness is a very important theme that is present in the whole course of the play Twelfth Night. Firstly, we have Malvolio almost turning mad because of the cruel joke the other servants play on him. They make him think he is mad and they also make Olivia think he is mad because of the funny way in which he is acting. There is also the theme of

A comparison of Alfred Hitchcock and Edgar Allan Poe. For both madness exists in the world

1146 words - 5 pages Fear, terror and suspense are the most vivid emotions created by Poe's stories and by Hitchcock's films. Several themes are common to both: the madness that exists in the world, the paranoia caused by isolation which guides people's actions, the conflict between appearance and reality along with the double aspect of the human nature, and the power of the dead over the living. Not only the themes are similar in both men's work but also the

The Madness Within- A Look at Poe’s Use of Mental Illness

991 words - 4 pages two stories have frequent similarities concerning the topic of madness. The symbol of an eye, diseases which share the same symptoms, and killing someone the characters love, are all common themes between the two stories. In “The Tell Tale Heart” an anonymous narrator has a strange psychological disease, which causes him to fixate on an eye. Our storyteller sets out upon a quest to defend his sanity, making a vivid picture of the old man's eye

Concepts of the Body, Medicine and Madness in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

2742 words - 11 pages I intend to examine to what effect concepts of the body, medicine and madness are presented in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818). I shall perform close analysis to parts of the text referring to explorations in new technologies, advances in medical science, and there psychological impacts. I shall discuss social implications of the growth of man’s technological evolution during the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Mary Shelley’s Gothic

Allegory, Symbolism, and Madness – Comparing the Demons of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne

4120 words - 16 pages Allegory, Symbolism, and Madness – Comparing the Demons of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne As contemporaries of each other, Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne endeavored to write about man’s dark side, the supernatural influence, and moral truths. Each writer saw man as the center-point in his stories; Poe sees man’s internal struggle as madness, while Hawthorne sees man as having a “secret sin.” Each had their

How Does Edgar Allen Poe Create a Feeling of Madness Throughout "the Tell-Tale Heart"?

1157 words - 5 pages affected him so much. Poe has chosen to write the story in first person narrative; he may have done this for several reasons. Firstly, this allows the reader to have access to the thought, plans and feelings of the narrator. However, this may mean that the story is one sided and biased, as the reader only gets the story from one persons view. Also, Poe may have chosen to write the story in first person so that the reader understands his madness

Similar Essays

The Stigma Of Madness Essay

1748 words - 7 pages Many people hold opposing views when it comes to defining what madness is and their attitudes towards it, which in turn makes the labelling of madness to become problematic. According to Foucault madness is ‘a complex social phenomenon’ (Foucault, 2001), suggesting that different definitions relate to particular periods in history and that the classical period represented a key moment in time when attitudes towards madness shifted (SparkNotes

The Madness Of Ophelia Essay

1925 words - 8 pages the manipulation by and loss of the two men Ophelia loved most-Hamlet and her father, Polonius-which leads to her madness.             There have been many theories offered-especially by psychoanalysists-concerning the cause of Ophelia's madness.  Freudian theorists like Theodor Lidz attribute it to Ophelia's incestuous feelings for her father and her desire for Hamlet to take her away from, or even kill him.  When this actually does occur

The Real And Feigned Madness Of Hamlet And Ophelia

501 words - 2 pages In William Shakespeare's Hamlet, a kind of madness ultimately infects everyone, leading to an ending in which almost every major character is dead. Two of these maddened characters are Hamlet and Ophelia, who also share a love for each other. But though their irrational behavior is often similar and their fates alike, one is truly mad while the other is not. Both Hamlet and Ophelia act very strangely. Hamlet, the prince of Denmark, insults

Insanity And The Necessity Of Madness In King Lear

1841 words - 7 pages The Necessity of Madness in King Lear At the beginning of “King Lear,” an authoritative and willful protagonist dominates his court, making a fateful decision by rewarding his two treacherous daughters and banishing his faithful one in an effort to preserve his own pride. However, it becomes evident during the course of the tragedy that this protagonist, Lear, uses his power only as a means of projecting a persona, which he hides behind as