Slaughterhouse Five Essay

973 words - 4 pages


Slaughterhouse-Five
     Critics often suggest that Kurt Vonnegut's novels represent a man's desperate, yet, futile search for meaning in a senseless existence. Vonnegut's novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, displays this theme. Kurt Vonnegut uses a narrator, which is different from the main character. He uses this technique for several reasons.
     Kurt Vonnegut introduces Slaughterhouse Five in the first person. In the second chapter, however, this narrator changes to a mere bystander. Vonnegut does this for a specific reason. He wants the reader to realize that the narrator and Billy Pilgrim, the main character, are two different people. In order to do this, Vonnegut places the narrator in the text, on several occasions. 'An American near Billy wailed that [Billy] had excreted everything but his brains...That was I. That was me.'; This statement clearly illustrates that the narrator and Billy are not the same person. The narrator was the
American disgusted by Billy. Vonnegut places the narrator in the novel in subtle ways. While describing the German prisoner trains, he merely states, 'I was there.'; By not referring to Billy as I, Billy is immediately an individual person. I is the narrator, while Billy is Billy. Their single connection is that they were both in the war.
     Kurt Vonnegut places his experiences and his views in the text. He begins the book by stating, 'All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true...I've changed all of the names.'; Viewing war as a senseless act, Slaughterhouse-Five allows Vonnegut to express his feelings on the matter. Through Billy Pilgrim, he is able to indicate his views. Many things which he viewed as senseless acts were very violent. '[The two scouts] had been lying in ambush for the Germans. They had been discovered and shot from behind. Now they were dying in the snow, feeling nothing, turning the snow the color of raspberry sherbet. So it goes.'; The narrator describes what happened and how it occurred. The imagery is very strong. The reader can imagine the snow slowly being dyed with the color of blood. Therefore, readers can picture a slow agonizing death. By ending with the statement, 'So it goes,'; the reader is enticed. The narrator states this when he finds that there is no need to continue describing the horrific brutality. The imagery used in the preceding sentence was strong enough.
     Kurt Vonnegut does not want to glorify war. The narrator made a vow to
O'Hare's wife, in chapter one, that the story would not do this. '...I give my word of honor. I'll call it the children's crusade.'; In order to do this, Vonnegut makes the main character a simple man. His name is Billy Pilgrim. His mission is to avoid anything that requires action or responsibility. This causes him to avoid finding meaning in...

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