Event Title

Fantasy versus Recovery: The Twin Fates of The Narrator and Billy Pilgrim in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five

Session Title

Environment, Government, and Conflict

Faculty Mentor

Kelly Richardson, Ph.D.

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Department

Department of English

Location

West 217

Start Date

12-4-2019 2:45 PM

Description

Using elements of both the antiwar and science fiction genres, Kurt Vonnegut examines the brutality of warfare on post-World War II American society in his 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five through the book’s two most significant characters, the war veteran Billy Pilgrim and the fictionalized “author” who creates Billy’s story. In doing so, Vonnegut showcases how two different individuals who experience the same events—the violence of World War II battles, suffering in prisoner-of-war camps, and the firebombing of Dresden—may cope with the trauma of their experiences differently. While Vonnegut writes Billy Pilgrim as a sympathetic figure, Billy is so psychologically broken by his wartime experiences that he can do nothing to cope with his emotional trauma except to create an alien universe that protects him from the bitter reality of the postwar world, while “the author” is similarly traumatized from the war but ultimately gains a sense of reconciliation by writing an antiwar book that reflects both his and Vonnegut’s distaste for war and its consequences for humanity. The purpose of this paper is to explore how, throughout the traumas and triumphant moments for both of these characters, Vonnegut is able to make a larger statement about how individuals are affected by and respond to wartime violence and psychological devastation.

Course Assignment

ENGL 324H – Richardson

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Apr 12th, 2:45 PM

Fantasy versus Recovery: The Twin Fates of The Narrator and Billy Pilgrim in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five

West 217

Using elements of both the antiwar and science fiction genres, Kurt Vonnegut examines the brutality of warfare on post-World War II American society in his 1969 novel Slaughterhouse-Five through the book’s two most significant characters, the war veteran Billy Pilgrim and the fictionalized “author” who creates Billy’s story. In doing so, Vonnegut showcases how two different individuals who experience the same events—the violence of World War II battles, suffering in prisoner-of-war camps, and the firebombing of Dresden—may cope with the trauma of their experiences differently. While Vonnegut writes Billy Pilgrim as a sympathetic figure, Billy is so psychologically broken by his wartime experiences that he can do nothing to cope with his emotional trauma except to create an alien universe that protects him from the bitter reality of the postwar world, while “the author” is similarly traumatized from the war but ultimately gains a sense of reconciliation by writing an antiwar book that reflects both his and Vonnegut’s distaste for war and its consequences for humanity. The purpose of this paper is to explore how, throughout the traumas and triumphant moments for both of these characters, Vonnegut is able to make a larger statement about how individuals are affected by and respond to wartime violence and psychological devastation.