Slaughterhouse Five

Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, fits the description of MacKnight’s favorite saying to describe a good novel: “Great literature raises questions, it does not answer them,” and that is all this book did, raise questions. Throughout the entirety of the novel, I was left somewhat confused and bedazzled by the form of Vonnegut’s writing. It was tied together in a purposeful way, and the writing made different readers question similar things. Vonnegut also wrote in such a way that readers of differing political viewpoints could still read and enjoy the novel, whilst realizing the stark significance of it. Although Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five was confusing, I did enjoy the questions that it brought to mind.  

The idea of being unstuck in time was difficult for me to grasp at first, partially due to my different viewpoint, and partially because despite Vonnegut’s best efforts, I still read in a linear way, so the writing was consistently portrayed in one direction. This being said, Vonnegut did an excellent job bringing the reader’s attention back to past experiences by using the same uncommon phrases like “mustard gas and roses,” etc. Vonnegut also wrote in a linear way through Billy, writing about his life, but mixing up the order in which he experienced some things. 

It is made clear from chapter one that Vonnegut is writing this book to portray the reality (in the most unreal sense) of war. He ties the seemingly fictional aspects like the Trafalmadorians in with the very stark real aspects of the novel. Vonnegut seems to do this to demonstrate the absurdity of war, demonstrating how the soldiers are just regular people like everybody else, he shows that there is nothing heroic about fighting in a war. Vonnegut ties the confusion of the novel in with his own life experiences, referencing himself. Vonnegut wrote this novel in a way that the reader questions if it is a tale of hallucinations, PTSD, and coping mechanisms, or if it’s a semi-fictional novel with some of that tied in. I prefer the latter idea, that Vonnegut wrote intentionally so that the reader would question the information being presented and its fictional and realistic qualities, leading them to inquire on why war happens and so on. Billy, the protagonist, wanders around WWII, seemingly unfazed by the destruction and absurdities of war. This is done artfully, allowing the reader to think deeper about the war that Billy is observing. Billy is depicted as wearing a silly fur coat with silver boots, this ridiculous costume in a time of war makes a laughingstock of him and the other soldiers. From chapter one Vonnegut makes it clear that this would be an anti-war book and he continues to prove this by his satirical writing on the soldiers, and the references to a child’s crusade, and the innocent deaths of Dresden. 


One thought on “Slaughterhouse Five”

  1. Adam, I appreciate how you discussed your ideas on what the novel is exploring. You say there is evidence of an element of fiction and nonfiction (PTSD and coping with it) and briefly discuss the idea that this is an anti-war novel. I could not fully understand or form an opinion about your points due to the lack of evidence supporting your ideas, but nevertheless, the ideas raised are good. One thing that may help me to understand your ideas is if you focus on one and go into detail rather than giving a surface-level explanation. I agree with you that this is a great example of a book that raises many questions and does not try to answer them.

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