From Ancient Greek playwright, Euripides, ('To die is a debt we must all of us discharge' (Fitzhenry 122)) to renowned Nineteenth Century , Emily Dickinson, ('Because I could not stop for Death/ He kindly stopped for me -/ The carriage held but just ourselves/ And Immortality' (Fitzhenry 126)) the concept of death, reincarnation, rebirth, and mourning have been brooded over time and time again. And with no definite answers to life's most puzzling question of death being given, it only seems natural that this subject is further explored. Kurt Vonnegut is one of many modern writers obsessed with this idea and spends many of his novels thematically infatuated with death. His semi - autobiographical novel, dealing with his experiences in Dresden during WWII, named Slaughterhouse Five, The Children's Crusade or A Duty Dance With Death, is no exception to his fixation. 'A work of transparent simplicity [and] a modern allegory, whose hero, Billy Pilgrim, shuffles between Earth and its timeless surrogate, Tralfamadore' (Riley and Harte 452), Slaughterhouse Five shows a 'sympathetic and compassionate evaluation of Billy's response to the cruelty of life' (Bryfonski and Senick 614). This cruelty stems from death, time, renewal, war, and the lack of compassion for human life; all large themes 'inextricably bound up' (Bryfonski and Mendelson 529) in this cyclically natured novel that tries to solve the great mystery of death for us, once and for all.
But Vonnegut disagrees and 'rejects the Tralfamadorian philosophy.. [and] Billy's total 'incapacity to understand the significance of the death of human beings' (Bryfonski and Senick 615). In Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut has 103 people die all of whose deaths are followed incompassionately by the Tralfamadorian phrase 'so it goes'. Vonnegut has a problem with those who are not concerned with individual death and has to use this phrase repeatedly to get his point for compassion across. To add to this Vonnegut tells a quick tale of working in a newspaper where he is forced to call a woman and tell her of her husband's death and to get her reaction because the newspaper unemotionally wants a good article. Even when Billy traveled back in time to Jesus' death he simply says: 'The Son of God was dead as a doornail. So it goes' (Vonnegut 203).
Overwhelmingly common in Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five are strong anti-war sentiments which show all the ways "war is deleterious towards the human condition."(Marvin) Vonnegut shows how war only causes pointless suffering and destroys the human body through countless ironic deaths, including Edgar Derby's, who is shot for stealing a teapot shortly after hundreds of thou...
The devastating bombing of Dresden, Germany at the close of World War II is the subject of Vonnegut's most highly acclaimed work, Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children's Crusade: A Duty Dance with Death....
Dresden went up in flames and pretty much the entire city was destroyed. This single firebombing had a death toll, the novel tells us, of 135,000 people, though there is some debate about actual numbers. ()
It took a while before Vonnegut could really write about his experiences during the Dresden firebombing, and not just because it was so personally painful. The firebombing was classified top-secret for years. But when he finally set pen to paper, out came Slaughterhouse-Five: a novel that follows a man with the unfortunate name of Billy Pilgrim as he gets captured by Germans, taken to a POW camp in Dresden, and witnesses the firebombing.
The alternate title of "Slaughterhouse-Five" is "The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death."
One of the three main settings in the book is Tralfamadore, a planet to which short, plunger-shaped, one-eyed aliens take Billy to live in a zoo.