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Theme in Slaughterhouse Five Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Oct 27th, 2019


The essay is a critical analysis of fundamentals as well as the central ideas that are deemed universal that are adequately articulated and explored within a piece of work. The anti war and science fiction novel, Slaughterhouse also known as The Children’s Crusade: A duty-Dance with Death is the work of Vonnegut Kurt. It tells the story of Pilgrim Billy who is a soldier and what he went through during the Second World War.

It is evident that writers, be they essayist, playwrights, novelists as well as poets use a number of mechanisms and tools to make their audiences clearly grasp what they intend to bring to light. Characters have been used to not only to develop the play but also the central ideas of literary piece of works. On the same note, motifs, symbols, plot of the story, black humor, narrative voice, and tone, have been successfully used in making the fundamental ideas of any literary work known, (Kuchwara 17).

The Theme of Destructive War

Among the themes presented in the novel, the Novel’s Overall theme is destructive wars. In whatever context, war has never been a good thing. This is clearly seen by what live Billy went through. He is captured and locked up in a disgusting place that is unfit for human beings.

Additionally, the bombing of German town Dresden of course let a number of people dead and property destroyed. In captivity, Roland dies of as a result of clog, similar, before his death, he convinces Lazzaro that Billy is responsible for their suffering hence bringing an act of hatred between them and Lazzaro vows to kill Billy to avenge Roland death (Kuchwara 72).

Additionally, Billy is depicted in the novel to have walked out of his son with knowing probably asserting that the two are unfamiliar with one another, due to effects of war-the separation. At the end of it all, Billy is a traumatized individual and is unable to come to terms with the negative effects of war. Within this context, human dignity is also brought to light. Those in captivity are subjected to very poor living conditions.

Elements used in Theme Identification

The following elements were much helpful when identifying the overall theme of destructive war in the novel; Characterization, Black Humor, Narrative Voice And Tone, Plot and/or Structure.

Looking at the novel’s setting or the plot, one can easily identify the theme of destructive wars. The story revolves around Pilgrim Billy an American soldier who is not well trained and has negative attitude and perception about wars. During the battle of Bulge, he was seized by soldiers of German origin, together with other captives they were locked into an enclosure-Slaughterhouse 5. The guards have a safe location to hide while keeping an eye on the captives; this made them survive the bombing of Dresden (Vonnegut 4).

Billy’s experiences when kidnapped is made to belief what those were captured with him say, that they have no choice to change what fate holds for them but have a choice to focus on what happens in their day to day lives. Before being captured, Billy shared with Weary Roland who constantly tells him off concerning his lack of eagerness concerning wars.

Upon their capture, Roland was deprived of all he owned even the boots, he later died as a result of clog that caused gangrene. Before his death, he convinced Lazzaro that all they are going through is due to lack of enthusiasm of Billy towards the war.

Another element is characterization. By looking at the traits of Billy, who is a hero of antiwar, before the war starts, Billy is already weakling. After becoming a soldier, he ends up training as a chaplain prepared at the time of war. His character of being unorganized renders him unprepared at the time of war.

There were conflicts during preparation, weapons were not there, and even his dressing was improper. This kind of confusion emphasizes a kind of a soldier who has mid manners. Having such character, Billy has the capability of walking through war without being noticed that he is a soldier?

Vonnegut in his writing brings out the theme of destructive war through the use of literature elements like black humor also known as dark comedy. This kind of humor makes the audience to amuse with things that need not to be laughed against, for instance in this novel, war represents such a thing.

Black humor has been seen in the description of the main character, “filthy flamingo”, (Vonnegut 56). It has also been used when describing the conditions that Tralfamadorians were encountered by the main character in the novel. All this conditions can be described as being satirical. I different sections of this book, black humor have been used to describe war. It shows that such ideas are “enchanted absurd” (Vonnegut 128).

The narrator used elusive tone in his works, though it is hidden to bring out the theme of war. There are many horrific instances of war described in the novel Slaughterhouse 5. Such like events depicts for him as an individual very huge connotations. By the use of this kind of tone, there are many sorrows that audiences are appealed upon.

Such like sorrows comes as an effect of war. The tone of this book is explained as being elusive because, there are many emotions. For instance, the emotions that are brought up when firebombing occurred at Dresden. It is also depicted when Bill in the company of Germany Guards and other POWS in a wreckage crawl.” idea was to hasten the end of the war”. (Vonnegut 227).

The narrator also used the narrative voice to bring out the effects of war. In this book, Vonnegut appears being one of the characters in the novel, as he explains in the beginning on how he was connected to Dresden fire bombing. In his statement to the publisher, Vonnegut narrated that the novel is short as he had nothing to “say about a massacre”, (Vonnegut, 16). He narrates the experiences that Billy underwent while under Germany soldiers hostage, and experiences firebombing at Dresden.


In conclusion, it is from the review of the novel that fundamental ideas have been brought out clearly by characterization, use of symbols, motive, and narration as well as the tone. Among the main or central ideas of the novel, Slaughterhouse by Vonnegut Kurt are; destructiveness of war, human dignity, time and memory, illusion of free will and acceptance

Works Cited

Kuchwara, Michael. Slaughterhouse-Five’ in Chicago. New York: The Associated Press, 1996.Print.

Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse. New York: Dell, 1969. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Theme in Slaughterhouse Five." October 27, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/theme-in-slaughterhouse-five/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Theme in Slaughterhouse Five'. 27 October.

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