So, so far into the novel (I made it to the end of the second chapter of Slaughterhouse Five), I can already sense a theme that war is something that is meant to be forgotten, but it is always repeated. As such, Yon is writing his stories about Billy, all while subconsciously showing that even people at war, fighting on the battlefield and in the trenches, forget about the current situation and remember their normal lives, which is what everyone on either side of any conflict yearn for. Kurt Vonnegut shows this showing how Yon barely remember last anything about his time in the service and how Billy doesn’t even care about the war, just about his own imagination and his freedom from time, which is normal for him. This, however, can lead to dangerous cycle, as people forget about the devastations brought about by war, making them more likely to repeat their past mistakes.
This book reminds me a bit of Catch-22, as both books (at least so far) seem to be about forgetting about the world around and focusing on the small pocket the characters were in at the time. For Yossarian and his squad mates, it was the island of Pianosa while for Billy, it is the small part of the Bulge he is lost in. However, unlike Yossarian, who feels trapped on the island and in the war itself, Billy feels as free as can be, as he feels that he is “unstuck in time”. Billy’s freedom from the shackles of time and his later stories about far off worlds does seem to frighten this around him, but this is a another metaphor used by Vonnegut to describe the real world, as sometimes, when we try to be who we really are, those around us push us back into the tiny boxes that the world wants to be in. This is also done forcefully sometimes, like by bullies or by people named Ronald Weary. I should know, because I was bullied when I was young for expressing who I truly was.
The fact that Yon focuses on one single event, the firestorm of Dresden, of World War Two interests me. If I had to guess, I would assume that Dresden was, for Yon and Kurt Vonnegut himself, a major mission for him, or perhaps the most impactful, during the war, as he decides to focus an entire novel around this one event, instead of much larger events, like Hiroshima (which is mentioned to show how important the author and Yon sees this event). As with any war, any moment of mass destruction, such as burning or nuking at town out of existence, down to just shooting one enemy combatant can leave a lasting mental imprint, or at least that is what movies, tv shows, and books have taught me. As such, Dresden, despite having little memory of their time in the city, certainly left the most lasting impression on both Kurt and Yon. After Dresden, Kurt, and most likely his story surrogate Yon, served in the Battle of the Buldge, as that specific battle was choices for most of Billy Pilgrim’s story. This means that this battle also left an impression in both writers, but to a lesser extent than Dresden.
Word Count: 545