The Slaughter House Five Essay Research Paper

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The Slaughter House Five Essay, Research Paper THE NOVEL - THE PLOT - Billy Pilgrim, like Kurt Vonnegut, was an American soldier in Europe in the last year of World War II. If you come to know a combat veteran well- a veteran of that war, of the Korean War, or of the war in Vietnam- you will almost always find that his war experience was the single most important event in his life. The sights and scars of war remain with the soldier for the rest of his days, and his memories of death and killing help to shape whatever future career he may make. The same is true for Billy Pilgrim. What he saw and did during his six months on the battlefield and as a prisoner of war have dominated his life. Slaughterhouse-Five shows how Billy comes to terms with the feelings of horror, guilt,

and despair that are the result of his war experiences. Billy does this by putting the events of his life in perspective. He reorganizes his life so that all of it occurs within the context of his days in Europe during the war. Thus the novel relates Billy’s prewar and postwar history (including his death in 1976, which was many years in the future when Vonnegut was writing this book), but the real story of the novel is the story of Billy’s wartime days. All the other events in Billy’s life are merely incidental to his time as a soldier and a prisoner of war. You see them as events that come to his mind as he lives, or relives, the last months of the war in Europe. Billy reorganizes his life by using the device of “time-travel.” Unlike everyone else, Billy Pilgrim

doesn’t live his life one day after another. He has become “unstuck in time,” and he jumps around among the periods of his life like a flea from dog to dog. When you meet him in Chapter 2, it is December 1944 and Billy and three other American soldiers are lost in a forest far behind enemy lines. Billy closes his eyes for a moment, drifts back to a day in his past with his father at the YMCA, then suddenly opens his eyes in the future: it’s 1965 and he is visiting his mother in a nursing home. He blinks, the time changes to 1958, then 1961, and then he finds himself back in the forest in December 1944. Billy doesn’t have much time to wonder about what has just happened. He’s captured almost immediately by German soldiers and put onto a train bound for eastern Germany.

Aboard the train Billy has a great adventure in the future: on his daughter’s wedding night in 1967, he is kidnapped by a flying saucer from the imaginary planet Tralfamadore. The aliens take Billy to their home planet and put him in a zoo. Then, as always seems to happen, Billy wakes up back in the war. The train arrives at a prison camp, and there a group of British officers throw a banquet for the American POWs. Before long he is traveling in time again, to a mental hospital in 1948, where he’s visited by his fiance, Valencia Merble. As soon as he recovers from his nervous breakdown, Billy will be set up in business as an optometrist by Valencia’s father. Billy is introduced to science fiction by his hospital roommate, Eliot Rosewater, whose favorite author is Kilgore

Trout. Trout’s writing is terrible, but Billy comes to admire his ideas. Billy travels in time again to Tralfamadore, where he is the most popular exhibit in the zoo. His keepers love talking to Billy because his ideas are so strange to them. He thinks, for example, that wars could be prevented if people could see into the future as he can. Next Billy wakes up on the first night of his honeymoon. After making love, Valencia wants to talk about the war. Before Billy can say much about it, he’s back there himself. The American POWs are being moved to Dresden, which as an “open city” (of no military value) has come through the war unscathed, while almost every other German city has been heavily bombed. Billy knows that Dresden will soon be totally destroyed, even though