The book Slaughterhouse Five represents the author Kurt Vonnegut’s life and reflects it through the life of the protagonist, Billy Pilgrim. The story begins with the town of Dresden getting bombed. As the result, Billy got PTSD which is referred to in the story as being “unstuck in time.” In attempt to represent his own traumatic experiences, Vonnegut grants Billy with post-traumatic stress disorder. This allows him to use flashbacks, bad dreams, and fears of his own to create a better illustration of his post-traumatic stress disorder.
Billy Pilgrim’s life is controlled by may flashbacks, bad dreams, and fears. He suffers emotional outbursts and even isolation. Throughout the entire novel, we are taken on a crazy journey from one moment in Billy’s life to another. For example, in one moment we are shown Billy’s life during World War II and then his childhood in the next. Most of the events are shown through flashbacks which wouldn’t be possible without post-traumatic stress disorder.
Vonnegut really shows you how much post-traumatic stress disorder can affect the everyday life of someone. He said “A siren went off, scared the hell out of him. He was expecting World War III at anytime. The siren was simply announcing high noon.” (Vonnegut 57). And again he created a visual representation of his post-traumatic stress disorder when he said “When Billy saw the condition of his means of transportation, he burst into tears. He hadn’t cried about anything else in the war.” (Vonnegut 197). It is obvious that Billy is very unattached to the world and separates himself from everyone including his own mother.
The reality in this novel is about Kurt Vonnegut’s experience in war. Billy is never really time travelling. It is actually just a part of his time in life that he keeps replaying, which is war. Due to the devastation he went through it is hard for him to live everyday as a normal person. It is not a proven medical diagnosis that Billy had post-traumatic stress disorder. However, as you read the novel, knowing that post-traumatic stress disorder is which is commonly known as a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of injury or severe psychological shock, typically involving disturbance of sleep and constant vivid recollection of the experiences, with dulled response to others and to the outside world, you understand more about his life and why he is the way he is. This knowledge can allow you to make the assumption that he indeed has post-traumatic stress disorder. Billy’s lives in depression and isolation but finds ways to cope with his horrible reality.
Billy distracts himself from the world world by creating a fantasy planet called Tralfamadore with people called Tralfamadorians. His escape mechanism allows him to make connections as he reflects on real life, traumatic events. For example, in his fantasy world he is taken by the Tralfamadorians to a zoo where is forced to take his clothes off and is put in a cage like he is an animal. The connection with this scenario is that in real life he was held captive by the Germans where he had no freedom.
When Billy isn’t in his fantasy he uses a coat he is given in the war for comfort even though people tease him about it. “He had no idea that people thought he was clowning. It was fate, of course which had costumed him – fate, and a feeble will to survive.” (Vonnegut 151)
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