Different Tones in Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

In his novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut uses various tones to emotionally affect his audience, By touching the feelings of his readers, the author suggests that a deeper meaning exists in his language rather than what appears in plain sight on the page This secondary understanding of diction allows Vonnegut to achieve his aim of creating an anti-war novel, which as described in the opening chapter, is his purpose. While Vonnegut uses numerous tones at different locations in the novel, the indifferent and lugubrious tones he establishes on pages 104- 105 allow him to effectively accomplish his goal.

The author commences the passage with an estranged tone in this scene, Eliot Rosewater, a fellow mental patient with Billy, agrees with the protagonist’s mother by saying “Of course, it can” in response to her instance on the comfort of money. Rosewater, like Billy, is in the ward because, as the author puts it, he “is dead to the world”.

Vonnegut‘s establishment of Rosewater’s polite yet unconcerned tone highlights the disparity between the perception of society and that of soldiers about war.

The author emphasizes that Billy‘s mother is so unaware of the trauma war presents to its participants that she believes money will heal her son and Rosewater “it really can’t” help she claims. A moment later, when Billy falls asleep and wakes in Germany, the author again uses an indifferent tone to show Billy’s apathy towards the horrors of war. The protagonist remembers “poor old Derby in front of a firing squad” about to be executed.

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The writer‘s choice of the phrase “poor old” accentuates to the audience Billy’s acceptance and impassivity toward his friend’s death. While the tone is aloof, it creates a saddening effect, The audience realizes that while the war did not literally kill Billy, the experience made him, again as the author puts it, “dead to the world”  While the matter»of-fact standoffish tone creates an upsetting effect, Vonnegut’s use of lugubrious language increases this buildup of sorrow.

In the middle of the passage, Billy falls asleep in the hospital ward and wakes up again in Germany “tied to the bed in the hospital back in prison”. Vonnegut’s horrific tone embellishes the already gloomy mood his estranged sentence structure previously set up. in this scene, the audience, already aware of Billy’s deteriorating post»war health, is now able to grasp the terrors that created those problems. By making the mood extremely dark, the author is emphasizing that war is far more horrific than society and even Rosewater and Billy’s post-war physicians understand. Moreover, as the narrator reflects on Billy’s understanding of Edgar Derby’s firing squad, he notes that Mr. Pilgrim did not think there “would be a blank cartridge issued in a squad that small, in a war that old”, This is the ultimate use of a melancholy tone in the passage. Vonnegut suggests that the soldiers had become so accustomed to committing bloodshed that they were apathetic towards upholding the vindicating tradition of a single empty rifle in a firing squad. Here, Vonnegut implies that in war there is no honor or decency.

The author’s cheerless tone allows the audience to realize that the realities of war do not accurately reflect the glory and heroism society places on battle. On a surface level, Rosewater’s conversation with Mrs. Pilgrim and Billy‘s reflection on Derby’s death highlight their detachment from the world, The war has metaphorically destroyed their emotions. However, Vonnegut’s ability to establish this indifferent tone and shift it to a gloomier one, allows him to touch the audience’s feelings and make the readers realize how the realities of war truly affect soldiers, The author’s use of tone gives deeper meaning to the text and is paramount in understanding his anti-war message, In Slaughterhouse—Five, Kurt Vonnegut establishes a nonchalant and straightforward tone for the majority of the novel. When the tone of the piece shifts, the audience views this scene on page 197 differently than other parts of the novel. The purpose of the passage on page 197 is to finally humanize Billy Pilgrim by introducing his sentimental reaction to a situation.

The author shifts the tone to emotionally affect the audience, touching the feelings of his readers to underline a deeper meaning in his language The author establishes this unique tone through irony and allusions. Before the passage on page 197, Billy Pilgrim remains emotionless as fellow comrades and allies die around him (eg. Roland Weary and “Wild Bob”). However, when two Poles inform him of the poor state of the horse, “he [Billy] burst into tears”. The novel even states that “He hadn’t cried about anything else in the war”. This shift in tone, from a stoic to saddened one, shocks the audience because the readers finally see Billy break down The irony though, is that it is not a human death Billy cries for but that of an animal. Although this scene is seemingly ironic for the audience, the moment nonetheless shows Billy in a more human light rather than a soldier so detached from his reality.

Moreover, Vonnegut’s use of a nonchalant tone in the initial part of the passage creates a more factual mood, which gives more credibility to the author. This straightforward tone allows the author to subtly achieve his aim of deglorifying war without outright doing so. However, such a technique produces a dehumanized (though credible) character – Billy Pilgrim The author includes the passage on page 197 to show the audience that Billy does have human emotions; the passage allows the audience to connect with the protagonist. If Billy remains nonchalant throughout the whole novel, the audience would only have a superficial relationship with Billy rather than a more meaningful connection. Just as Vonnegut draws into Billy’s well of emotions, he alludes Christ and takes Billy’s persona a step further by comparing Billy to a Christ figures While the passage is undergoing a tone metamorphosis from an initial aloof tone to an emotional one, Vonnegut completes the transition by establishing a virtuous feel to his language The change in tone allows the author to change his focus from the realities of war to Billy‘s characterization.

Billy “would weep quietly and privately sometimes, but never make loud boohooing noises”. The text even states that Billy “resembled the Christ of the carol/ mNo crying he makes”. The author wants the audience to understand Billy’s true role in the novel. As the audience is ready to understand Billy’s personality traits, the author instead provides an overwhelming Christ-like side to the character through the tone shiftt This scene offers the audience to see Billy for what he truly is in this novel – a Christ»like figure The passage on page 197 essentially humanizes and describes Billy as a holy, Christ-like figure. The change in tone signifies the break from the horrific war experiences, which permits the audience to absorb the overwhelming war narrative and observe Billy’s qualities in order to reinforce the author’s purpose, the author needs a factual, unbiased character who can still connect to the audience Portraying Billy as a Christ-like figure, the author has an ideal character to send the anti war message

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Different Tones in Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. (2023, Apr 21). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/different-tones-in-slaughterhouse-five-by-kurt-vonnegut/

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