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Explain the link between the three main contexts of WWII (and the Dresden Bombing),...

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thebookworm1995 | Student, Undergraduate | Salutatorian

Posted February 15, 2012 at 6:06 PM via web

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Explain the link between the three main contexts of WWII (and the Dresden Bombing), contemporary American society and Tralfamedore.

I'm writing an analysis on the text Slaughterhouse-Five and need to link these three contexts together. Also, providing some of the key literary and language devices that Vonnegut uses to achieve this would be extremely helpful!

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 16, 2012 at 8:40 AM (Answer #1)

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In Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonegut passes back and forth through time in a way that certainly connects these three contexts (and his comments on American culture at the time of this book’s publication seem to remain directly relevant and applicable today).

Thematically, we can say that Vonegut sees (or presents) a particular insanity as a characteristic of American culture and of the events and decisions of the war. This insanity is defined by a refusal to admit to the existence of alternate/alternative perspectives.

The bombing of Dresden is the biggest example of choices made as a result of extremely (insanely) narrow perspectives.

The shooting of Edgar Derby for stealing a tea pot from the wreckage of Dresden is another example of the cultural myopathy which Vonegut puts on display. Billy Pilgrims daughter is another good example of a character who acts with cruelty in the name of compassion because she is (apparently) fundamentally incapable of reflection. She really, truly cannot understand why he may want to sit in the basement.

The rhetorical tool of choice in Slaughterhouse-Five is sarcasm/irony and humor. Understatement is also used throughout the novel. We are presented with an impossible world wherein the realities agreed upon by the majority of people are manifestly unreasonable and narrow-minded (with the exception of the characters who are seen as crazy - Billy Pilgrim and Kilgore Trout).

The assumptions that war is inevitable and that killing hundreds of thousands of people in the name of peace are not explicitly challenged or questioned in the text. They are presented with sarcasm, which can also be called understatement in this case (in my opinion). Or you could call it irony.

This rhetorical device suggests that there are two ways of seeing everything. The importance of this point to the novel cannot be overstated as it is a book about how we are saved or doomed by the way we choose to look at the world.

Trafalmadore fits in as it serves as a new perspective. The alien race is a narrative device which suggests that the view-points of the human characters are very narrow indeed.

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