Suffering ms. Hanna Slaughterhouse-Five

Thesis Statements
 Through showcasing the suffering of Billy Pilgrim
and other POWs during WWII, Vonnegut
attempts to counteract the glamorization of war
that previous novels and Hollywood movies have
 Billy not only suffers physically during his
imprisonment, but suffers mentally long after his
experiences in WWII; Vonnegut wants the reader
to empathize with Billy and see how war
destroys the human body, mind, and spirit.
Theme Statement
 Suffering is unjust, often afflicting those who
do not deserve it; furthermore, unnecessary
suffering, like suffering as a result of war, has
everlasting devastating effects on human
 Billy, after all, had contemplated torture and
hideous wounds at the beginning and the end of
nearly every day of his childhood. Billy had an
extremely gruesome crucifix hanging on the wall
of his little bedroom in Ilium. A military surgeon
would have admired the clinical fidelity of the
artist's rendition of all Christ's wounds--the spear
wound, the thorn wounds, the holes that were
made by the iron spikes. Billy's Christ died
horribly. He was pitiful. So it goes.
 (Vonnegut 48)
 In the first chapter of Billy’s story, Billy is thinking
this after Roland Weary talks to him about the
various torture devices he has brought with him.
 It shows that Billy has been exposed to pain and
suffering even as a young innocent child.
Vonnegut uses sarcasm to connect the violence
in both religion and war.
 Vonnegut attempts to show how we have
become desensitized to such images because we
are overexposed. For Catholics, it is such a part
of their imagery, they often lose sight of the real
suffering behind the image much like we have
lost sight of the real suffering behind war.
 Before Billy opened his eyes, it seemed to him that the
tones might have been those used by the friends of Jesus
when they took His ruined body down from His cross. So it
goes. Billy opened his eyes. A middle-aged man and wife
were crooning to the horses. They were noticing what the
Americans had not noticed--that the horses' mouths were
bleeding, gashed by the bits, that the horses' hooves were
broken, so that every step meant agony, that the horses
were insane with thirst. The Americans had treated their
form of transportation as though it were no more sensitive
than a six-cylinder Chevrolet.
They made Billy get out of the wagon and come look at the
horses. When Billy saw the condition of his means of
transportation, he burst into tears. He hadn't cried about
anything else in the war.
 (Vonnegut250)
 In the final chapter of Billy’s story, as the POWs
return to Dresden after the bombing, Billy weeps
over the suffering of the horses that are pulling his
 The horses’ suffering is related directly back to the
crucifix and Jesus’ suffering, bringing this theme full
circle. Billy has been exposed to suffering from his
childhood and has witnessed first hand the suffering
of war, however it is only when Billy is the direct
cause of another’s suffering, albeit an animal, he
finally is able to weep. He is finally able to
empathize and connect to another’s suffering.
 Vonnegut is putting forth the question: Why do we
need to be the direct cause of another’s suffering in
order to empathize and therefore put a stop to it?

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