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Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Background information on the author and his story.

Brandon Williams

on 30 December 2016

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Transcript of Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse fIve
by Kurt Vonnegut
In 1969, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., was not especially well known or commercially successful, despite having already published five novels and two short story collections
The publication of Slaughterhouse-Five in 1969 marked Vonnegut's artistic and commercial breakthrough
Based on Vonnegut's experiences as a World War II prisoner who witnessed the Allied firebombing of Dresden, Germany
Need for people, adrift in an indifferent world, to treat one another with kindness and decency
Limitations of human action in a seemingly random and meaningless universe
Dangers of unchecked technology
Patriotism distorted into Nationalism and Militarism
Futility of seeking Glory and Heroism in war
Alienation and Loneliness
War as a means for Peace
Science and Technology
Death and Destruction
Apathy and Passivity
Free Will
So It Goes . . .
Unusual structure is unlinear
The novel's protagonist has come ‘‘unstuck in time’’
At any point in his life, he may find himself suddenly at another point in his past or future
The novel's structure highlights both the centrality of Billy's war experiences to his life, as well as the profound dislocation and alienation he feels after the war
Point of View
Rather than employing a conventional third-person ‘‘narrative voice,’’ the novel is told by the author himself
Vonnegut himself appears onstage as a character
Instead of obscuring the autobiographical elements of the novel, Vonnegut makes them explicit
He makes it clear that it is an imperfect and incomplete attempt to come to terms with an overwhelming event
In a sentence directed to his publisher, Vonnegut says of the novel, ‘‘It is so short and jumbled and jangled, Sam, because there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre’’
In describing overwhelming, horrible, and often inexplicable events, Vonnegut deliberately uses a very simple, straightforward prose style. He often describes complex events in the language one might use to explain something to a child
Vonnegut forces the reader to confront the fundamental horror and absurdity of war head-on, with no embellishments, as if his readers were seeing it clearly for the first time
Billy's being ‘‘unstuck in time’’ is both a literal event and a metaphor for the sense of profound dislocation and alienation felt by the survivors of war
the aliens from the planet Tralfamadore provide a vehicle for Vonnegut's speculations on fate and free will
Vonnegut deliberately uses humor in describing what would ordinarily be considered a situation too violent, grim, or tragic to laugh at
In so doing, the author is able to convey not merely the tragedy and horror but also the absurdity of inexplicability of war
Black Humor
Brandon W. Williams Presentation
Work Cited:
This has been a
He'll be dead soon. So it goes.
Full transcript