"Slaughterhouse-Five" by Kurt Vonnegut

Essay by nworb_leinadA+, September 2006

download word file, 3 pages 4.0

Downloaded 13 times

Throughout history, society in general has been molded by the ravages of war. From King Henry VII's invasion of Brittany, to the bloodshed on the shores of Iwo Jima, all the way to the present-day territory dispute in Bosnia and Herzegovina, war abounds mankind and its brief history. As nations, ethnicities, et cetera interminably attempt to outdo one another war will continue to arise. In recent years much has been said about the negative repercussions war has on society in a general sense; but what does war do to an individual? This is a question often avoided as a result of the bitter truth: War can all but destroy the sane mind of the common man.

This is a fact that was abundantly presented in Kurt Vonnegut's absurdist classic Slaughterhouse Five. The story is initially set during World War II, but moves from place to place, and from time period to time period throughout the novel.

The story revolves around the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden and the mythic journey of an American soldier/ prisoner-of-war named Billy Pilgrim. Pilgrim suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and imagines his abduction by aliens, and a great journey through space and time, to a fictional planet named Tralfamadore. A vast deal of bizarre cerebrations occurred inside Pilgrim's mind, but Billy had no control over these thoughts. War has an uncanny ability to inflict mental stress on man.

The story of Billy Pilgrim is a near-perfect example of the horrendous way in which war can affect the mind of the common man. As a prisoner of war, Billy Pilgrim is subjected to daily torture ranging from beatings and malnourishment. Pilgrim also witnessed the beatings of many other soldiers, some of whom he was familiar with. Billy Pilgrim's mind was not only a...