After years of going to local libraries only to find out that Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five was out of stock, I realized there was really only one option left. So I asked my little brother to buy me it as a birthday present and made it my own. Take that, Sunset Park Library—I WIN!
Anyway, that being said, this is a Vonnegut book so of course there’s a lot of depth and creativity and tons of stuff flying overhead that you don’t necessarily catch on the first, or even second, read. Oh how I miss the days of college literature classes where I could have read this book and then talked and written about it for weeks on end with my equally interested peers. Alas I remain here on my blog where I will essentially dissect a novel by myself. So it goes.
The novel is a great anti-war piece as it shows the horrible effects of war on soldiers who survive and how traumatic PTSD can really be. Billy Pilgrim lives every day suffering flashbacks as he travels through time experiencing war, being taken hostage, and surviving the bombings of Dresden. His flashbacks are intense enough that he believes he is traveling through time to relive these parts of his life again and again. He faces constant nightmares and even has a barbershop quartet set him off into a panic attack because they resemble faces he saw in Dresden. Then he creates an alien abduction in his mind to escape the reality that he has trouble dealing with anymore. Reading about Billy Pilgrim’s life made me intensely unhappy because he seemed like such a bystander to all the huge events that would otherwise cause people immense joy. And it’s all because of a war he entered at an age where he was to young to properly process everything that was happening around him.
Vonnegut reinforces the utter sadness I’m filled of whenever I think of war and the people I know who are intentionally investing themselves in it. The narrator has a voice that seems to say, “This is what happened and it was terrible and we hated it. We saw death and destitution; we were miserable and scared. But it happened regardless and there’s nothing we can do about it now. We’re empty and have to live with what we’ve seen and done for the rest of our lives.” So it goes.