Slaughterhouse-Five By Kurt Vonnegut: A Literary Analysis

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In the 1960s, music and literature were commonly used to promote anti-war messages. People used novels, pamphlets, and songs, among other things, to get their opinions out into the world. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut is considered one of these anti-war novels, “one of the greatest anti-war novels ever written” (The Folio Society, web) in fact, though it is not necessarily one of them. It tells the tale of war, without heroes; however, many individuals still consider it an anti-war novel because of this hero-less portrayal. Vonnegut uses music throughout his novel to portray Billy Pilgrim’s emotions regarding the war and to set the tone of various scenes within the story. Kerry Candaele’s article The Sixties and Protest Music begins…show more content…
Instead it is the strong memory that is brought on by the song. It occurs to him that they could be singing any old song, and he would still associate them with the four guards from Dresden. “The barbershop quartet sang again. Billy was emotionally racked again. The experience was definitely associated with those four men and not what they sang” (Vonnegut, 175-176). Though, if it weren’t for Vonnegut’s use of music to trigger and portray these emotions, Pilgrim would more than likely never face these memories of Dresden and the images of the guards pantomiming in the ruins of the neighborhood. Furthermore, without Vonnegut’s use of music, the reader would not glimpse Pilgrim’s emotions concerning…show more content…
This uplifting song instead sets an almost dry, mocking tone because it is already made clear to the reader that the plane will crash and all but two passengers will die. By utilizing the stark differences between the song name/lyrics and the events of the passage, a purposefully dark humored tone is created. The reader is given this hopeful song, only to have it snatched away by a plane crash that they knew would happen. It’s almost comical because of just how well this is executed. Throughout the entirety of his novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut uses music to portray Billy Pilgrim’s emotions regarding the war. Pilgrim’s life is quite the emotional rollercoaster, and a significant portion of his experiences involving music shape his opinions regarding war and life in general. He hears the Four-eyed Bastards sing about things he never had and never will have, and it brings back fairly painful memories of Dresden. Vonnegut also uses music to set the tone of various passages within the story. He almost drowns at the Y.M.C.A and hears the most beautiful music, therefore setting a peaceful, happy, accepting tone for this particular passage. Then he’s on a plane full of people and hears a cheery song only to have it all crash down, quite literally, just moments later. Vonnegut uses music in an extremely purposeful way throughout his novel (particularly in the examples provided) to illustrate the emotions felt by Billy Pilgrim, as well as to

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