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Slaughterhouse-five and Catcher in the Rye

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Kurt Vonnegut’s work on the Slaughterhouse-five and Catcher in the Rye are regarded as some of the best literal works on the demonstration of the link between the lives of the lives of the authors and the stories resented in the novels. This review aims at discussing Kurt Vonnegut’s life in relation to his novels - Slaughterhouse-five and Catcher in the Rye.

In the slaughterhouse-five by this author, dramatic life and tragic young life influences this work in greater perspectives. The immense achievement of his immigrant families are shuttered by the economic depression and political change in the society. The traditional values that were deeply entrenched within the American society such as tolerance and common sense are juxtaposed within this literal work to demonstrate the levels and absurdity of human kind that has encompassed the life of the author. Such folly of mankind is magnified by the bombing of an innocent city of Dresden- a city of no military importance and the reason of obvious target by allied forces is a mystery. 

It is within the backdrop knowledge of the bombing that the dark world of slaughterhouse-five emerges. The innocent character of Billy Pilgrim is reflected as a young innocent man caught up in confusion beyond his personal reflection.  Another concept that the author has used to in the Slaughterhouse-Five to mirror his personal life is the concept of time. Kurt Vonnegut has therefore used the concept of time to answer the fundamental question - What is the purpose of life? Like any good existentialist in the league of Vonnegut, he has put himself comfortably in the shoes other renowned writers like Barth and Borges.

In insisting between the world of fiction and fantasy (Tralfamadore) and the world of brutal fact (Dresden), Vonnegut's novel portrays the link between the novel and the personal life of the author. It can be discerned that Vonnegut shares the same theory with Louis-Ferdinand Celine from attitude about art and life by saying that "No art is possible without a dance with death….the truth is death” (14).

In fact, the absurdity of life is represented in the novel by Dresden’s bombing and serves as a metaphor in the life of the author. A deeper analysis of the novel presents the author’s state of confusion at which human’s capacity for cruelty has the capacity to destroy a multitude of people. His outrage is depicted by lack of concern on the Dresden’s bombing that demonstrates high levels of human insensitivity.  The heart of this novel’s theme is the question of free will and the determination to remain alive in the face of unimaginable levels of life absurdities. The narrator of this novel, which according to its analysis is the author, succinctly puts it clear that there is no characters and no dramatic confrontations by stating that “most of the people in it are so sick and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces” (24). The belief is that much greater forces such as war events have the capacity to crush the personality of human beings. The author therefore presents a fascinating side of his personal life and personality while at the same time remaining active in imagination.

By bringing in Billy Pilgrim in the picture, the author draws the reader back to the time in imagination through the concept of time. The raveling of Billy into the past is demonstrated so many times in the novel. “And then Billy swung into life again, going backwards until he was in pre-birth, which was red light and bubbling sounds.” (43). Billy receives a number of images after the fists touch with the past in his imagination in which he sees his dad teaching him how to swim, the vivid memory of his mother in their old home and celebrations that that Billy used to long for in his childhood. After the reverie, the author states that “Now somebody was shaking Billy awake” (47). This depicts the personal past life of the author that is being reflected in the present through imagery in the novel.

In the Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield is used by the author in this monologue to describe thoughts and activities of Holden in a few days that leads to his nervous breakdown.  This novel of primarily about a perceptive study of individual’s understanding of his human condition in regards to the problems that encompasses hid daily life. Having been sent out of school for another time because of poor performance, the author presents a mirror of his previous life that involved constant wrath of his parents. The surprising thing to the author is that despite the psychological battle that Holden goes through in his life, most people seem to ignore this as“madman stuff” that is happening to him. This is until he begins to disturb their neat and well maintained social codes. The author portrays the ignorance of human insensitivity that characterizes the existence of human beings.

It can be discerned that we have the capacity to view within ourselves the suppressed elements that encompasses the life of Holden. The author of the Catcher in the Rye has thus effectively used imagery to present a fascinating side of his past life to the reader. This has been effectively achieved by the application of imagery, concept of time and an enlightening description of our human condition. In conclusion, both Vonnegut and Salinger have effectively presented their personal lives through the application of imagery. The successes of these two literal works have been achieved by the careful and intrinsic dissection of the authors’ lives through different perspectives.

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