Thursday, April 26, 2012

Slaughter House 5

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According to Mary O’Hare, the people who fight in wars are “just babies”. How does the author support and illustrate this opinion in the narrative portions of Slaughterhouse 5 which deal with the war? By examining several scenes and images discuss Vonnegut’s characterization of the American, German and English soldiers and show how Vonnegut portrays war as childish, and those who fight as children.


I didn’t know that books could be this intriguing, disturbing, enlightening, satirical, and strange all at the same time. This story definitely has a message that is awkwardly strange in a sense that it is a common and blurred message. One of the messages that Vonnegut has through out the book are people who fight in wars are “just babies” as Mary O’Hare says. Mary gets upset with Vonnegut because she believes that he will glorify war in his novel; Vonnegut, however, promises not to do so. Slaughterhouse-Five is a condemnation of war, and Vonneguts decision to dedicate the novel in part to Mary suggests how deeply he agrees with her that the ugly truth about war must be told.


In the following paragraphs I will discuss Vonnegut’s characterization of the German, American, and English soldiers; also how Vonnegut portrays the war as childish.


The soldiers during WWII in all the countries involved, were young men. During the play you realize the innocence of these boys and how the war has made them grow up to fast. Later in the book Werner Gluck a young German guard at the slaughterhouse. Gluck gets his first glimpse of a naked woman along with Billy. Their shared intrigue and interest in the naked female body unites these two men. Reflecting on this the boy is too young for war if he has never seen the opposite sex. Also their young age can unite these men even with their different ideologies. Another of example of the characterization of the Germans is on page 5 “two of the Germans were boys in their early teens.” Billy then describes one of the boys as a blond angel; this again shows how young the men are fighting the war.


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Billy’s encounter with British soldiers is in the P.O.W camp. On page Billy describes the English P.O.Ws as clean and enthusiastic. The Englishmen also had been lifting weights and chinning themselves for years. They were in great shape and were masters of checkers and chess and bridge and many other common games. The Englishmen made war look stylish and reasonable, and fun.


As for the Americans their troops were affected by the war also. Eliot Rosewater A war veteran who occupies the bed near Billy in the mental ward of a veterans hospital. Like Billy, Rosewater is suffering from the aftereffects of war. When young minds are exposed to the horrors of war the mind can not always cope. Billys son, who is a failure and a delinquent at school, though he cleans up his life enough to become a Green Beret in the Vietnam War. Roberts presence in the story during Billys later life helps illustrate the pervasiveness of Billys war trauma. Roberts successful self-reformation from delinquency to discipline (in Vietnam) seems to indicate Vonneguts acceptance of the inevitability of war.


Threw out Slaughterhouse 5 there are many messages to be understood. One of those messages is how war uses “babies” to fight. And the serious after effects of a war on a young mind. In Billy’s case he went crazy from the horrible things he saw in war. Kurt Vonnegut does a great job showing how “babies” were fighting the war. So it goes. Hello, farewell, hello, farewell.





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