Kurt Vonnegut wrote the book Slaughterhouse-Five in order to express his feeling of disgust towards the brutality of World War II. It was written as a general statement against all wars. Vonnegut focuses on the shock and outrage over the havoc and destruction man is capable of reeking in the name of what he labels a worthy cause, while learning to understand and accept these horrors and one’s feelings about them. Through his character, Billy Pilgrim, he conveys not only these feelings and emotions, but also the message that we must exercise our free will to alter the unfortunate happenings that might occur in our lives.
Vonnegut had tremendous difficulty writing this novel. He says, “I thought it would be easy for me to write about the destruction of Dresden, since all I would have to do would be to report what I had seen” (Vonnegut 2). He did not count on his emotions interfering with his attempts at a factual and logical report of such atrocities.
It took Vonnegut twenty years to directly face his private demon of the firebombing of Dresden in the form of this novel. He had trouble recalling any memories of substance about his time in Dresden.
It could be said that he was blinded by the firebombs of Dresden. It was not until Vonnegut returned to the sight of the bombing twenty years later, along with one of his war buddies, that he was able to recall the disastrous and horrific incidents in Dresden. The novel served as a form of therapy for Vonnegut; it enabled him to examine the events of the past that impacted on his life, and to come to terms with them. Vonnegut chooses to focus the novel on events surrounding the firebombing of Dresden, Germany.