Slaughterhouse-Five Critical Overview - Essay

Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Critical Overview

(Novels for Students)

There is a substantial body of criticism on Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s work in general, and on Slaughterhouse-Five in particular. While critics have often found Vonnegut's fiction as a whole to be uneven in quality, they have frequently praised him for Slaughterhouse-Five, which is widely regarded as the author's finest work.

The tone for much of the criticism that followed the book's release was set by Robert Scholes in his review of Slaughterhouse-Five, which appeared in the New York Times Book Review shortly after the novel's publication in 1969. Scholes praised Vonnegut's humor, noting that it ‘‘does not disguise the awful things perceived; it merely strengthens and comforts us to the point where such perception is bearable.’’ He asserted that the absurd elements of the novel are appropriate and necessary to deal with the absurdity of the world. He considered the novel to be ‘‘an extraordinary success … a book we need to read, and to reread … funny, compassionate, and wise.’’ The noted critic Granville Hicks, reviewing the novel in Saturday Review, compared Vonnegut to Mark Twain as both a humorist and moralist.

Much of the later criticism of Slaughterhouse-Five has emphasized the book's unusual and innovative structure. In Vonnegut: A Preface to His Novels (1977), Richard Giannone observed that ‘‘Vonnegut the witness draws moral force by undermining conventional narrative...

(The entire section is 593 words.)