Let’s Read: Slaughterhouse-Five

Sage Santana, News Reporter

In one of the most controversial and popular anti-war novels, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, main character Billy Pilgrim is a man who has faced one of the most devastating events in World War II, he is in regular contact with alien life forms on a planet called Tralfamadore, and who becomes “unstuck” in time.
The story opens with the author (who is not explicitly named as Vonnegut) trying to get details from his friend about the horrible Dresden bombing during WWII. The author later decided to write the novel as an anti-war story. The book then goes into detail of the life of Billy Pilgrim. However, rather that a complete, chronological story of his life, the readers are left with a story that jumps from one event to another in Billy’s life-from his time in Germany to his wedding night, to his death, and then to his time in New York.
This novel was one of Vonnegut’s most popular, debuting in 1969. The novel is filled with anti-war sentiments, from the nonsense words that the birds sing (to represent the nonsense of war), to Billy Pilgrim’s being “unstuck” in time ( something that actually alludes to Pilgrim’s PTSD). This novel is filled with anti-war references, and is best known for that fact. However, there are other strong themes in the novel as well that make it such a classic.
Time is one of the many reoccuring themes in this story. In the novel, time is viewed not as a irreversable chain of events, but as something fluid, something that can be revisited and is eternal. This leads to the reoccuring theme of time and its importnace. Since time is seen as fluid, events such as death, and even the end of the universe are not seen as sad occurances, but rather, another part of the fluid exsistance of time.
Another theme in this novel is suffering. Throughout the novel, Pilgrim suffers when he is held as a pirsioner of war in Dresden. There is suffering in the many deaths of those around Billy Pilgrim, and suffering of Pilgrim himself. The theme of suffering is in place to bring attention to the injustice of suffering. Billy Pilgrim is so upset with the injustice and pointlessness of suffering. Pilgrim becomes so upset with the suffering, and that he can no longer handle the reality of the world he lives in, and so he then turns to the false reality of Tralfamadore to find a place with less injustice.
Slaughterhouse-Five is a classic novel worth the read. While the novel, does not follow the typical order of events, it still has a great impact on its readers. The reoccuring themes of anti-war, suffering, and time, as well as the development of very real, human characters, create a classic novel worth the read.

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