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Explain why Vonnegut characterized Billy so the reader is emotionally detached and...

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thebookworm1995 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted February 22, 2012 at 2:22 PM via web

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Explain why Vonnegut characterized Billy so the reader is emotionally detached and unsympathetic towards him.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 22, 2012 at 2:34 PM (Answer #1)

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What is so funny about Billy Pilgrim is that he is such an unlikely choice for an antiwar hero. Even before the war he was shown to be indifferent and unpopular, and as a soldier this impression of his character is only intensified. When he makes his first debut in the war at the Battle of the Bulge, he appears ill-equipped and untrained. Not only is he physically weak, but the way that he is dressed in an azure toga and a very smal fur-lined overcoat beggars belief. However, it is important to realise how Vonnegut uses this to highlight one of his central themes. The fact that Billy Pilgrim survives despite his lack of training, fitness and equipment, where so many others who are better equipped and trained die emphasises the irony of war.

Billy is precisely the kind of character that we as readers dislike so intensely to emphasise the destructiveness of war. This is of course both indicated through the destruction of Dresden but also through the destruction of Billy as an individual and of the many other soldiers that died. The fact that Billy manages to survive where so many other soldiers who were better suited to surviving died indicates the way in which war treats everyone indiscriminately. Nobody seems able to escape its grasp which is whimsical and random. Billy Pilgrim's character is deliberately so distasteful to us to highlight this theme.

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