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Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Updated on August 24, 2012

Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death by Kurt Vonnegut

Synopsis

‘Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death’ by Kurt Vonnegut is yet another story of travel which says about the experiences of a soldier named Billy Pilgrim who undertakes a similar jouney. The book includes his experiences during the Second World War. Kurt Vonnegut was an advance scout with the 106th Infantry Division, a prisoner of war and a witness to the fire-bombing ofDresdenon 13th February 1945. Nearly 135,000 people died in the ruins ofDresden, which means that it was the greatest man-caused massacre of all times (71,379 people were killed by the atom bomb dropped onHiroshima). Kurt Vonnegut in ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ gives a wonderful view of the war in which he explains many things and it is hard to decide, what exactly the main theme is. Slaughterhouse-Five is about war, about the cruelty and the violence done in war, about people and their nature, their selfishness, about love, humanity, regeneration, motion, and death.

Slaughterhouse Five analysis

‘Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance With Death’ also explains a quest for the value of life. The book involves a personal as well as impersonal narrative. The latter is the story of Billy Pilgrim who, similarly to the author, fights in World War Two, is taken prisoner by the Germans and witnesses the fire-storming of Dresden. The first theme of the book is about nothing but war and its contrast with values of life like humanity, honesty, love, innocence, beauty etc. The book gives out the message that war is never good for humanity. The book teaches how stupid it is to destroy relationships through unnecessary wars. The author admonishes humanity about the destructive nature of war. The book echoes the fact that it is always better for us to love everybody rather than fighting over unwanted matters. The book emphasizes the importance of values of life that often gets perished with wars and other problems. The book is therefore a story about the quest for the valuable qualities of life. The author of the book uses the word love infrequently, yet efficiently. We find in the story that when Billy got caught by the Germans, he never considers them as cruel capturers. He rather considered them as innocent, loving people. Billy, in spite of his sufferings, did not find fault with others. He rather searched for the goodness in them. He valued love and never developed resentful feelings against his oppressors. Apart from emphasizing the importance of love and other qualities of life, the author of the book explains the contracting nature of men and women. Men often engage in wars and fights which the women try to avoid. The author advices his readers to love human beings. He exposes the worthlessness of wars and fights. Through the woman characters the author emphasizes the importance of peace and mental strength. The woman characters in the book are mentally strong, have strong will, and are very humane and loving. Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death thus repeatedly deals with valuable theories of humanity.

Slaughterhouse Five quotes

Even though the book contains numerous themes, the quest for the values of humanity is the most prominent one. The author wants to tell readers that no matter what happens, we should retain the values of humanity. We should not let anybody or anything reign upon our personalities, be it a god, be it a politician or anybody else. The book explores the idea of fate and free will. Billy Pilgrim says there is no free will; an assertion confirmed by a Tralfamadorian, who says, "I've visited thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe . . . Only on Earth is there any talk of free will" (Vonnegut, 1971). ‘Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance With Death’ thus deals with a quest for the values of life.

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