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Slaughterhouse Five

             February 13, 1945, it was the peak of World War Two, hundreds of Allied war planes brutally firebombed the city of Dresden, Germany. Eighty percent of the city was demolished, and over 135,000 innocent civilians were killed due to this attack. In the aftermath of military conflicts like this everywhere, the devastation is described in terms of the amount destruction of buildings and infrastructure, monetary losses, and casualties. It is a rare occasion when the psychological damage that the fighting has inflicted upon the survivors is discussed. In Slaughterhouse Five, author Kurt Vonnegut brings this issue to light. During the abovementioned Dresden bombing, Vonnegut was trapped in an underground meat locker (from which the novel is named after) with other American prisoners of war. He shows, through relating his own personal experiences, the experiences of the fictional protagonist Billy Pilgrim and the supporting characters, that the psychological effects of war on the individual can be devastating.
             When human beings undergo large levels of stress, or traumatic events, they develop coping devices - mental barriers to assist them in dealing with their problems. The day after the bombing of Dresden, the protagonist of Slaughterhouse Five, Billy Pilgrim, emerges from a meat locker in which American prisoners of war were kept, and observes "The sky was black with smoke. The sun was an angry little pinhead. Dresden was like the moon now, nothing but minerals. Everybody else in the neighborhood was dead" (178). When Billy was first sent to Europe, he was assigned to a regiment that was in the midst of being destroyed in the Battle of the Bulge, which was Germany's final offensive of World War Two. Almost as soon as he arrived, Billy became "a dazed wanderer far behind the new German lines" (32). Billy wandered with three other Americans until they were captured, and eventually loaded into boxcars to Dresden.

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