Literary criticism of "Slaughter House Five", by Kurt Vonnegut.

Essay by bubbles_15High School, 11th gradeB+, October 2003

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Destruction of Dresden, destruction of Vonnegut's dream

The 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...