Slaughterhouse-Five Essay, Research Paper
The intriguing and unforgettable novel, Slaughterhouse-Five presents many different thoughts and feelings into the minds of its readers. First, The novel depicts the modern lifestyle of an unusually lucky war veteran. It explains the life of Billy Pilgrim, and how he lived it. From memories of his early life to his bloody assassination.
Slaughterhouse-Five is rightfully dedicated to Mary O?Hare and Gerhard Muller. Those two very intelligent people helped to bring about the final version of this novel in its entirety.
Mary O?Hare is the lovely wife of Bernard O?Hare. She was introduced in the first chapter because of her outstanding idea, which gave Slaughterhouse-5 the subtitle, The Children?s Crusade. Mary O?Hare was the type of person who let everyone in her surroundings know that the moment was wrong or there was something she did not agree with. This point was made very evident in the novel because Vonnegut mentioned she was ?polite and cheery?, but he sensed that ?Mary didn?t like me [referring to Vonnegut], or anything about the night?. Finally, Mary had an outburst; telling Vonnegut and Mr. O?Hare (who was also at Dresden) that ?they were just babies? in the war. Indicating that in Vonnegut?s upcoming novel, they would end up being characters that were big and bad, having a movie based on the book with a prestigious cast of characters, and so fourth. Thereupon, Mrs. O?Hare presented the name ?The Children?s Crusade?, to represent that they were prepubescent men during and around the Dresden disaster. Nevertheless, they should still be considered crusaders because ?the crusaders were but ignorant and savage men, that their motives were those of bigotry. Unmitigated, and that their pathway was one of blood and tears?.
This fascinating novel was also dedicated to a gentleman who went by the name of Gerhard Muller. This masculine individual was a taxi driver Vonnegut met when he was retracing his steps in Germany with Bernard O?Hare. Muller was a man who was also captured during the war, but Americans captured him. This fact truly intrigued Vonnegut because they were both people who had to rebuild their lives after the ghastly Dresden disaster. Surely, Muller got his life back together because ?he had a pleasant little apartment and his daughter was getting a descent education?. The main thing that captured Vonnegut?s attention was a postcard Gerhard sent to Mr. O’Hare. On the postcard, Muller wrote: “If the accident will.” This means that if anything happens, so be it.
Every element on the title page presents something special about essential points in the novel. All of which are inside jokes that say a lot about the plot, progression, and deeper meanings of individual incidents in the story.
The title of the novel is Slaughterhouse-Five, obviously, as previously mentioned. This title is very significant, of course, but it remained a great mystery until the middle of the novel when it is expounded upon for the reader. As explained, the American men in Germany were hidden in a large animal slaughterhouse. The slaughterhouse was divided into separate buildings, and Billy Pilgrim stayed and the other soldiers stayed in the fifth building. Thus and so, the title Slaughterhouse-Five is established and used for this extraordinary novel.
The alternate title for this story is The Children?s Crusade. Mrs. O?Hare first bought up this title to Vonnegut while he was visiting her husband. This title means that during the war they were prepubescent boys who barely experienced everything there is to life, for example, the joy of raising a family or having children. However, they had enough expertise and maturity to fight out in war because they had the courage, will, and desire to do so risking their lives for their country.
The alternate title is A Duty Dance with Death. This alternative title demonstrates how the soldiers involved in the novel should have feared for their lives every day while they were at war. This novel that says Billy Pilgrim and his fellow colleagues were dancing with death. Death was at Pilgrim?s fingertips, and surprisingly enough, he was one of the few survivors.
Billy Pilgrim was a fourth-generation German. Most likely, a third-generation German would know little or none about his or her German roots and background. Possibly, Pilgrim would have been this way, but his excursion to Germany probably changed his views on his own culture trapped in another culture.
By far Pilgrim lived in easy circumstances on Cape Cod. An aura of luck followed him everywhere he went. In Germany, he watched countless people die around him, while he still lived. He got into a plane crash, was the survivor, then his wife died, got abducted by aliens, his young daughter treats him as if he was a small child, and everyone thinks he?s crazy. Yet, he still managed to change his profession from a successful optometrist to a radio talk show host, have a housekeeper, and be wealthy. That is the good life.
Billy Pilgrim was a native infantry scout who was on combat in Germany for his country. While his he was in Germany on the American side, he became a prisoner of war; trapped in Germany with his fellow companions who would die at the spur of the moment. He was part of the percentage of survivors that came back to America to share the triumph and hardships he went through on his trip.
Slaughterhouse-Five is an amusingly odd novel and story because of its progression. The events were very sporadic because the novel was not presented in chronological order. Therefore, the epitaph says that the novel is ?in the telegraphic schizophrenic manner of tales? because it is crazily done! It goes from one short story to another. Some stories being sad, and others ludicrous.
One of the many substories in this novel is that Tralfalmadorians abducted Billy Pilgrim, or beings from another planet called Tralfalmadore. Apparently, ?flying saucers 300 feet in diameter? approached Pilgrim and took him back to their planet so that he would be put on display in a zoo in a confined chamber where beings outside would watch everything he would do.
The cattle are lowing,
The baby awakes.
But the Lord Jesus
No crying he makes.
The epigraph before the start of chapter one is a quote from a Christmas hymn because is signifies that Billy Pilgrim has a sincere side to him also. Throughout the novel, he went though many hardships, yet he never cried. Nevertheless, whenever he thought of this brief Christmas hymn, he went out into tears, but to a certain extent. Pilgrim ?often saw things worth crying about?, but he rarely cried. This Christmas is one of the few things in life that made Pilgrim shed tear.
The epigraph reveals that Pilgrim also has a sense of innocence- how he also loved purity, such as with the babies, and Adam and Eve. Whenever he described something as being pure, he referred to either a gentle baby or Adam and Eve.
This novel brought in numerous characters for many different stories and many different reasons. Some of the characters may be more intriguing than others, but they all make the reader ponderous because they were eerie individuals.
Roland Weary was one intriguing character. He used profanity, made up strange stories, and carried around pictures of women having sexual intercourse with animals. Roland was a war companion of Pilgrim. They were both captured together during the war, so they ended knowing a lot about each other?s lifestyle. As the novel, quoted, Weary used the word ?shit? several times when talking to Pilgrim. Apparently, Weary was not very popular ?because he was stupid and fat and mean, and smelled like bacon no matter how much he washed. He was always being ditched in Pittsburgh by people who did not want him with them.?
Weary also has extremely morbid thoughts because he would mention painful and gruesome methods of execution such as ?sticking a dentist?s drill into a man?s ear?, or putting an innocent man on the top of an anthill in the desert, and then putting ?honey all over his pecker, and you cut off his eyelids so he has to stare at the sun till he dies?. In addition, Weary ?had a dirty picture of a woman attempting sexual intercourse with a Shetland pony.? It is terrible to hear of Weary?s death because he is such an absurd character whose bubbly personality needs to stay strong during the entire novel.
Another character that remains a mystery even after the novel is read is Valencia Merble. There are slight references to her throughout the novel, but her identity remains a mystery for quite a bit of the story. Valencia was Billy Pilgrim?s wife who died a bazaar and unusual death. ?Valencia wasn?t a time traveler, but she did have a lively imagination. While Billy was making love to her, she imagined that she was a famous woman in history. She was Queen Elizabeth the First of England, and Billy was supposedly Christopher Columbus.?
She was overweight, and she knew it. Billy did not know why he married her, but he loved her back. As soon as she found out about the horrid plane crash Pilgrim was involved in, she hysterically hopped into her Cadillac Coupe de Ville for a drive to the hospital to help her husband. She ?was hysterical, because she had been told frankly that Billy might die, or that, if he lived, he might be a vegetable.?
On her way to the hospital, she got into a minor car accident, which she walked away from without a scratch. Little did she know, it would later lead to her death. After the car accident, she ?blabbed hysterically about Billy and the airplane crash, and then she put her car in gear and crossed the median divider, leaving her exhaust system behind?. When she arrived to the hospital to see her husband, her head attached to her large body was on the steering wheel. ?Valencia was unconscious, overcome by carbon monoxide?. Within an hour, she was dead, and all her loving husband said was, ?So it goes.?
According to the New American Heritage Dictionary, a motif is a reoccurring thematic element used in the development of an artistic or literary work. The motifs in this novel were easy to recognize because when Pilgrim mentioned them, he always provided an explanation about it.
Anyone at all who has read the novel Slaughterhouse-Five would know that the character Billy Pilgrim went through a lot in his lifetime, including is plane crash, and his visit to Tralfalmadore. At times, he disliked life, and everything having to do with it. To solve this problem, in his office, he hung the Serenity Prayer up on a wall as a remembrance that he should move on in life and keep on going, no matter what may hold him back. As it says in the Serenity Prayer, Billy ?could not change the past, the present, and the future?.
One hundred and three times in the novel, Billy Pilgrim said, ?So it goes?. Mainly, he would say it after someone died because the Tralfamadorians taught him that ?when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, and always will exist?.
There were countless small stories in Slaughterhouse-Five, which had their own individuality and style. Some stories were sad, some were funny, and some leave the reader confused.
When Billy Pilgrim and Roland Weary were at war in Germany, a funny incident happened. Two men approached them and stole their shoes. They gave Weary a pair of clogs that once belonged to a fifteen-year-old boy. The swallowed pride really shines in this scene because they ?were both without military footwear, and they had to walk for miles and miles.? The most ironic thing about the situation is that a photographer for a local newspaper took their picture, and an article was later published about Americans- such a rich country having troops without proper military gear. To make the situation more embarrassing, the men who stole their shoes unraveled Weary?s pornography of women having sexual intercourse with ponies. The men made cruel comments like ?Don?t you wish you were that pony?? This episode in the novel was no only hilarious, but it is also greatly memorable.
At times during the novel, the reader cannot help but to have pity for Billy Pilgrim. In one incident, no one wanted to sleep near Pilgrim while he was on combat. His fellow Americans in Germany told him rude things such as ?get the hell out of here,? while he was just trying to find a place of rest. He was not pestering or driving anyone crazy while he ?nestled politely and closed his eyes?. Each and every time he tried to sleep, people would react by saying ?not with me you son of a bitch?, or ?God damn it.? As it went, ?Billy had to sleep standing up, or he did not sleep at all.? Not only that, ?the days and nights were colder than all time.? Then Pilgrim met a hobo that told him, ?you think this is bad?? Then possibly, it would make this situation worse because the hobo died; making the story sadder.
The funniest short story presented in the novel shows Pilgrim as a sixteen-year-old boy in a doctor?s office waiting room because he had an infected thumb. ?There was only one other patient waiting-an old, old man. The old man was in agony because of gas. He farted tremendously, and then he belched?. The elderly man repeatedly passed gas, and then apologized. At the end of this short story, the old man looked at the young Billy Pilgrim shook his head, and said, ?I didn?t know it was going to be this bad?.
The themes in this novel are very well presented by Vonnegut. One theme that was continuously repeated was time. There is no way to stop or change what is going to happen in life. Pilgrim made sure he stated that ?there is no beginning, no middle, no end, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time?.
Slaughterhouse-Five was also anti-war novel. It presented the affects of war on a person, and his life. Vonnegut made sure that this story showed the long term and short-term affects of warfare on a life. Vonngegut even told his children that ?they are not under any circumstances to take part in massacres, and that the news of massacres of enemies is not to fill them with satisfaction or glee?. In the story, Billy Pilgrim constantly watched his friends die around him because of war. It is a good thing Billy Pilgrim has his belief in ?so it goes?, because if not, he probably would have suffered a lot more than he did.
“UNIQUE . . . ONE OF THE WRITERS WHO MAP OUR LANDSCAPES FOR US, WHO GIVE NAMES TO THE PLACES WE KNOW BEST.”
- Doris Lessing
The New York Times Book Review
Vonnegut?s uniqueness and personal style presented in the writing of this novel truly shines while one reads this novel. Not only Vonnegut?s writing style does not follow that of a traditional book or novel, it was so great how he mixed comedy with drama and irony.
My feelings about this novel are extremely positive. This pleasantly puzzling novel was difficult to understand, but it still helped let me realize the true affects of war. Although I can neither fully understand nor contemplate why Vonnegut chose to write about the bombing in this manner, I was persistent in thinking it was very well done. I thought the novel was great, and I hope many people for generations to come will also enjoy this intriguing work by an extremely talented author.