This thought experiment is useful precisely because it forces a perspective so separate, or alien, that with a little luck we gain some insight into why we are the way we are or why we do the things we do, like procreate, or poison our habitat, or hoard digital proxies for paper proxies for bits of rare but not all that rare metals, or watch old people get machine-gunned to death, or firebomb medium-size German cities.
But it is so much more than a uniquely useful thought experiment on war.
It is equally remarkable in the innovative way its structure is married to, and made necessary by, the story itself. Through this ingenuous device Kurt Vonnegut shows the past as an irresistible force, particularly in the case of those who have trauma at the center of their experience. His past arrives without invitation, bouncing between the war, his childhood and his unremarkable later life as an optometrist, which is itself punctuated by visits to mental and veterans hospitals. This all may sound very strange to you.
It is, beautifully strange. But let me be more direct about what I really think this book is. It is a book of awe and humbling clarity.
Its lessons are so simple that by adulthood most of us have forgotten or taken them for granted only to be stunned upon being reacquainted with their fundamental gravity. Our crimes become both monumental and quotidian. Our grief and our destiny both inevitable. This may sound cynical or nihilistic, but I would argue that this book is among the most humane works of art ever created.
It is concerned with and dedicated to the alleviation and prevention of human suffering in the face of its inevitability, and I can think of no braver moral position to take than that one. You can have Job. In the singularly brilliant introductory chapter, Vonnegut tells us in his own voice how he came to write this book.
Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five adapted by Eric Simonson | Playscripts Inc.
It was born from his experiences as a young Army private taken prisoner in World War II, witness to both the brutality of the German war machine and the catastrophic Allied firebombing of Dresden. I have also told them not to work for companies which make massacre machinery, and to express contempt for people who think we need machinery like that. He, more than any other writer I can think of, could cut through cant and sophistry and dissembling to expose our collective self-deceptions for what they are. His sentences are accusations that let you keep your dignity.
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And for those of us who recognize ourselves in those accusations, that generosity is a rare gift. And listen to us on the Book Review podcast. Themes Motifs Symbols Key Facts.
Plot Overview. Characters See a complete list of the characters in Slaughterhouse-Five and in-depth analyses of Billy Pilgrim. Main Ideas Here's where you'll find analysis about the book as a whole. Quotes Find the quotes you need to support your essay, or refresh your memory of the book by reading these key quotes. Important Quotations Explained.
Further Study Continue your study of Slaughterhouse-Five with these useful links. Writing Help Get ready to write your essay on Slaughterhouse-Five. Purchase on BN.