February 14, 2021
I started rereading Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five today, since I start teaching it next week. I read it back in the fall, so it’s till pretty fresh on my mind, though I know I missed a lot going through it the first time. This time, I’m being a bit more methodical, and I’m actually taking notes.
Billy Pilgrim has lost his will to live—he has always been awkward and nervous, but after his World War II trauma at witnessing the firebombing of Dresden, he’s trying to deal with is PTSD and is losing the battle. This is the main thrust of the novel: attempting to recover one’s humanity after the horror and absurdity of war. How do you pick up the fragments of a life and fit them back together in some sort of meaningful way?
The novel is subtitled “The Children’s Crusade,” and the theme of sending children to fight wars—into slaughter—seems more resonant for me this time through. The authorities are sinister in their absence: governments and corporations provide the fodder for war while remaining safely isolated and removed.
. . .