Slaughter house 5, by Kurt Vonnegut, was introduced to me by my English teacher (Mr.J) because after reading 7 Casca books (see my last article) in a row he said he would no longer count them towards completing the class. I flip-flopped between intending to read different books without doing any actual reading until he finally put the book in my hand and said your reading this. He briefly explained that it was a book about the horrors of war, in particular the bombing on Dresden, but that it was also a very strange book, involving abnormalities in the working of time and abduction by aliens.
At first I wasn’t very optimistic about the book, I had already read a dozen books and seen a dozen movies about how terrible war is and am of the opinion that stories that rely almost entirely upon this are not very good and receive undeserved respect for how “deep” the thought behind them are. Also I sometimes find myself subconsciously falling into the mindset that because I can read and understand long, complicated, works of literature, I wont be able to enjoy a short (200 page) novel, this book is proof of the falsehood of that mindset. I was immediately sucked in by the clever writing style not dissimilar to that of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (after some research i found that Douglas Adams was a huge Kurt Vonnegut fan) where there is a maintained feeling of humor made by frequent funny situations and phrases that don’t make burst into laughter but rather force your lips into a slight smile. (like when your the first guy in the room to get a joke or solve a riddle) Hidden beneath the humor, a darker theme occasionally breaks through to the surface for a brief moment then in an instant the humor is back. this theme is tragedy. Billy Pilgrim, the main character, is a very sad character who suffers many great hardships. He floats through life never making any real decisions for himself, he just takes the path of least resistance. This is due to him living his life out of order as in, one minute hes ten years old next minute hes thirty-four then after being thirty-four for awhile he opens his eyes and hes nineteen. He never lives the same part of his life twice and has no control of when the changes take place. Its questionable if he was actually living like this or if this was a result of the multiple times he cracked his skull and the traumatizing experiences, causing his memories to get jumbled up.
Billy Pilgrims experiences in the war where largely based Kurt Vonnegut’s own. Kurt did serve as an infantry man, and was captured by the German army and taken to a slaughterhouse in Dresden that had been converted into a prison. He and his fellow prisoners were among the incredibly few in the city to survive the Allied Firebombing. Slaughter-house 5 was the end result of years of occasionally working on a book about the bombing, while also working a full time. Kurt talks about the war in a way that isn’t meant to draw sympathy and tears. Instead he’s matter-o-fact or more often, humorous in a slightly dark way.
This is a book that constantly mocks everybody and itself, but not so far as to be overly offensive. Kurt Vonnegut writes about many themes throughout the book. Some of the most prominent themes are; peoples mind sets, war, humans moral neutrality, being swept up by powers greater than yourself, and human foolishness. This is a great book that anyone can, and everyone should read.