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Is there a contrast in the message between the two books Catch 22 and Slaughterhouse-Five?

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sandyheath | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted March 3, 2013 at 11:05 PM via web

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Is there a contrast in the message between the two books Catch 22 and Slaughterhouse-Five?

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

Posted March 4, 2013 at 6:56 AM (Answer #1)

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Both of these texts are similar in the way that they paint a very bleak picture of war as something that is ultimately destructive and of no benefit whatsoever to humanity. This is highlighted just as strongly in the firebombing of Dresden as it is in the impact war has on characters like Yossarian. Likewise, both texts feature famous anti-heroic figures, with Billy Pilgrim and Yossarian being key ways in which both authors convey their anti-war satire. The major difference would be the way in which Vonnegut brings science fiction into his story in order to focus on a lack of free will. Both texts focus on the inevitability of death, but Slaughterhouse-Five emphasises this theme slightly differently through introducing the Tramafaldorians and their curious way of looking at life all in one go and seeing every stage as being pre-ordained rather than something that your actions can influence. Billy Pilgrim therefore knows when he is going to die.

Yossarian, by contrast, is obsessed with his own death and the many different ways in which he good meet his end. Note the following quote from Chapter 17 when his feelings about death are explored:

One of the things he wanted to start screaming about was the surgeon’s knife that was almost certain to be waiting for him and everyone else who lived long enough to die. He wondered often how he would ever recognize the first chill, flush, twinge, ache, belch, sneeze, stain, lethargy, vocal slip, loss of balance or lapse of memory that would signal the inevitable beginning of the inevitable end.

What is significant for Yossarian is that he realises that even if he is lucky enough to escape the war he is so desperate to get out of, he will not be able to escape death, and he will eventually have to face death, war or no war. However, what this realisation of death produces in him is a profound respect for life. Both texts therefore are similar in their anti-war message and the way that they present a satirical view of conflict. The difference is in the way this message is packaged, with Vonnegut's tale incorporating elements of science fiction to comment on the inevitability of man's demise.

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