At the beginning of Chapter Four of Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), Billy is watching a war movie on TV, which does not amuse him. Vonnegut uses the character of Billy to tell his story and narrate his experiences and views on war. This means that Vonnegut’s insight into the 20th century and the world in general was as follows: everyone should do part for world peace and mutual supportiveness. However, I do not think it is the central image of the novel as most of the novel is about his struggles in war and life in general. I think the central image of the book is the moment when the war began, and Vonnegut’s participation in this. It was there that he learnt a lot as a soldier and got vast experience, especially during World War II, which is evident in the book. Bill was once arrested and imprisoned during the war, which helped learn more about German and Russian governance. Only a group of American prisoners of war were able to survive a bombing in Dresden in 1945. The prisoners sheltered in a slaughterhouse locker, and this saved them from death. It is the locker known as Slaughterhouse Five that inspired Kurt Vonnegut to write the eponymously-named book. The start of Chapter Four only prepares the reader for the eventualities of the book: but most events until this point were leading to Vonnegut’s arrest, and the war. Vonnegut had an insight of a peaceful world in the future where people would exercise their freedoms without limits.
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Slaughterhouse Five (1969), hence, is mostly about the World War II and experiences that Vonnegut attained. The main character of this rather satirical novel is a combatant by the name of Billy Pilgrim. The high point of the book is the moment when Billy Pilgrim is arrested and imprisoned by the Germans in the course of the Battle of the Bulge. I consider it the center because it sets the pace of the novel and shapes what is to happen next. Before he was arrested, Billy was an inexperienced American soldier who was against any form of war. He was captured together with some fellow American soldiers, and they were placed in a slaughterhouse that was not in use at the time. However, there were animal carcasses still lying there when they arrived, and the German soldiers called the underground room Slaughterhouse Five. Dresden was one of the key places where prisoners of war were detained. The fact that Vonnegut was involved in its bombing shows his insight towards freedom too. It shows his vision of a 20th century as an era where people could exercise their freedom without restrictions.
Vonnegut uses images in the book to show how the world’s governance operates and how the strong nations control other countries. He never wished to see what will happen in the world whether in the 20th century or in future. He had an insight that his struggles and endeavors would change the world by making people reconsider their outlooks on freedom. In the book Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), Billy is kidnapped by aliens from a foreign planet called Tralfamadore. This can be compared to the moment when he was captured by the Germans during World War II, and how they used their power to oppress the captives (Vonnegut 212). When stronger nations invade a country, the citizens are restricted in their actions similar to the case when Billy was kidnapped and placed in a zoo. That is the point that Vonnegut tries to illustrate through the two incidents when he was forcefully taken by the Germans, and then by the aliens. It is written that the Tralfamadorians can see in four dimensions, as in the case with strong nations which always look out since they are likely to create new enemies in their efforts to conquer other countries. Billy advocates for change for the better, which in the real sense the author wanted to see. Vonnegut had a vision of the world where every county would have the freedom to choose their leader and, thus, lifestyles. The incidents also show how superior nations influence smaller countries making their leaders act according to their rules and laws.
While travelling, Billy shows us what his life used to be when he lived with his wife in the USA during the war, before he was arrested by the Germans, and when in Tralfamadore. He was much happier then, which show the readers the advantages of peace and the effects of war. His tribulations can be compared to those of a troubled country, and the pains its citizens have to go through daily. At the end, he is murdered by a thief; in such a way, the author wanted to show the impact of wars on a country and its citizen. Vonnegut had experienced first-hand the violence during the war, and he did not want the same to happen in the 20th century or any time in the future.
The death of Billy was caused by a couple of factors also highlighted in the book. Before he was captured, he never liked getting involved in wars, which was the main reason for Roland, who was a bully, chastised him. This can be applied in the real world where the strong nations punish the countries that do not support them in their governance. Vonnegut was always against war and mistreatment: he believed that the perfect world is the peaceful one where everybody is free to express his opinion. When arrested by the Germans, everything that Roland had was confiscated and he underwent hard labor, which eventually killed him. This shows that even if some people misuse their power to oppress others, a day will come when justice is finally restored. Roland suffered in the hands of the Germans just like Billy had suffered under his authority. This proves that even though some nations and leaders still oppress the people, Vonnegut believed that a time will come when fairness and equality will prevail.
From the book Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), it is evident that Vonnegut hoped for a better world in the future, especially in terms of peace and equality. He used his life to highlight most happenings in the real world and to show the consequences of war. To my mind, the central image of the book is the one when Billy, who plays the role of Vonnegut, is arrested. It shapes the events that show us the author’s insight to the world. Mostly, he wished to see the 20th century with people exercising their rights accordingly and enjoying the peace.
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