"Slaughterhouse Five - The Children's Crusade; A Duty-Dance with Death" is a book written by author Kurt Vonnegut, published in 1969. It is the semi-autobiographical story of the Dresden firebombing during World War II. The story begins with Kurt Vonnegut's voice and moves to the main character, Billy Pilgrim. Vonnegut had been a prisoner of […]
Kurt Vonnegut (1922 – 2007) was born on November 11, in 1922 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was descended from German immigrants who settled in Indiana in the middle of the nineteenth century. Vonnegut dropped out of college to join the Army during World War II. He was shipped to Germany, where he was taken a prisoner of war and sent to Dresden. There he survived the firebombing of Dresden and wrote about it in his book, Slaughterhouse Five. Vonnegut's parents felt such animosity Germany, that they never taught him German, or kept any German books in the house.
Vonnegut wrote for his high school newspaper and found it easy. He believed everyone had something they did naturally and wondered why other people found it so hard. For him, is was writing.
When he attended Cornell, he joined the Cornell Daily Sun. He quickly rose up the ranks to the editor. As a pacifist, Kurt was against the war. But after Pearl Harbor, the whole nation was ready to fight. Kurt was a member of the Reserve Officers Training Corps while in college, but bad grades and an article that was satirical led him to be put on academic probation. Vonnegut dropped out of college, lost his student deferment, and instead of waiting to be drafted, enlisted.
He was stationed in Indiana and was so close to home that he could almost sleep there and report for duty the next morning. Returning for Mother's Day weekend, Kurt found his mother's body. She had committed suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills. Three months later he was sent to Germany with the 106th. His unit participated in the Battle of the Bulge but was supposed to be in a safe zone due their lack of experience. That did not work. They were overwhelmed by German troops. Five hundred were killed and six thousand were captured.
The train that transported the prisoners was attacked by Englishman killing one hundred and fifty prisoners. Then Vonnegut was taken to Dresden with other prisoners and put to hard labor. While there the city was attacked by Allied forces killing thousands of people. After making his way to a repatriation camp in France, Vonnegut served out the rest of his time stateside. He was discharged in 1945. Afterward he married Jane Marie Cox in September of 1945. She was his high school girlfriend who he had known since kindergarten.
Vonnegut studied anthropology at the University of Chicago on the GI Bill and worked at the Chicago City News Bureau at night. He wrote a few pieces that he sold to magazines. When his thesis wasn't accepted by the college, he dropped out, and his wife quit when she became pregnant.
Vonnegut went on to work at GE and continued writing. Soon his writing becomes lucrative enough for him to quit his job and take his family to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where he settled to write. His breezy style and innovative subject matter gained him a wide following. Before Slaughterhouse Five he wrote a few books that didn't do well, but that book hit at the right time during the Vietnam conflict. Its anti war message was well received. It hit the best seller list and was instantly famous. He was invited to give lectures, speeches, and commencements. Kurt was also awarded numerous awards for his writing.
Kurt Vonnegut's style of writing was usually in the science fiction realm. He was satirical and wrote a lot of gallows humor. During his lifetime he wrote fourteen novels, three short story collections, five plays, and five non-fiction books. Kurt Vonnegut passed away from complications after a fall in his New York brownstone when he was eighty-four years old. But, his genius will live on forever.