Views on War in Vonnegut's Slaughter House Five
Many people returned from World War II with disturbing images forever stuck in their heads. Others returned and went crazy due to the many hardships and terrors faced. The protagonist in Slaughter-House Five, Billy Pilgrim, has to deal with some of these things along with many other complications in his life. Slaughter House Five (1968), by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., is an anti-war novel about a man’s life before, after and during the time he spent fighting in World War II. While Billy is trying to escape from behind enemy lines, he is captured and imprisoned in a German slaughterhouse. The author tells of Billy’s terrible experiences there. After the war, Billy marries and goes to school to become an optometrist. During his schooling, he is put in a mental institution. As it is later explained in the novel, Billy was abducted by aliens and lived on their planet in their zoo for a period of time. Throughout this novel, Billy’s life doesn’t occur in a series of events. He also doesn’t have flashbacks of certain points in his life. Instead, he lives his life through time travel. His life jumps from many points in time including his experiences in the war, before the war, after the war and also on the planet of Tralfamadore. Throughout this novel, Billy Pilgrim’s and other humans’ views on war are simple: in essence, it’s one of the most destructive things that there is, but to the aliens on the planet of Tralfamadore, war is unimportant in the long run and should not be dwelled on.
By opening the cover of this novel, one might notice the subtitle. Underneath the title, Slaughter-House Five, reads the subtitle: The Children’s Crusade A Duty-Dance with Death. Without even reading the novel, one is enlightened to the fact that this book is an anti-war novel. The subtitle suggests that the war was nothing but a bunch of children who were obligated to fight and eventually die.
The author writes of many different human beings, showing that each one thinks war is ultimately, the worst thing. While in the war, Billy is in the hospital during his imprisonment by the Germans. There is an old general there who was a teacher before joining in the war efforts. One day, in a conversation with Billy and another older man in the hospital, the general starts to talk about what he thinks of the war. He says, "You know-- we’ve had to imagine the war here, and we have imagined that it was being fought by aging men like ourselves. We had forgotten that wars were fought by babies. When I saw those freshly shaved faces, it was a shock. "‘My God, my God----’ I said to myself, ‘It’s the Children’s Crusade’" (p. 106). This general feels that war is nothing but babies being murdered by one another. He is disturbed by the thought of war and the fact that so many young people are dying for its cause.
Billy, the protagonist of this novel, also has bitter feelings about war. While he is in the zoo on the planet of...