War man has tried to create rules

War has plagued humans since the beginning of time bringing with it death and suffering. It is common to say that what happens during war is for a greater good, but this ideology is many times twisted by both sides of the conflict. The title I choose, Conduct of War, is to illustrate the irony that man has tried to create rules during war, a sort of etiquette to keep while killing each other. Towards the end of WWII the Allied Forces bombed Dresden, a German city, which resulted in huge casualties and controversy after the war pertaining to the justification for the bombing since the city served little purpose for the Nazi war machine. Kurt Vonnegut, the author of Slaughterhouse-Five, was a POW in the city and miraculously survived by hiding down in a meat locker. Although choosing the novel to be fiction it relates to his own experiences during the war. Kurt Vonnegut’s intent with the book is to show the absurdity of justifying killing civilians in war and war itself. He does this by creating a jagged timeline in the book, one that jumps around to create confusion and and instability giving the reader a glimpse of the emotion caused by war. When first giving the book to his publisher he told him that the book “is so short and jumbled and jangled, Sam, because there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre. Everybody is supposed to be dead, to never say anything or want anything ever again” (Vonnegut 13). Vonnegut starts the book by explaining how the main character can travel through his lifetime in his mind, so the story may jump for the war to when he was a child. In the fist chapter he also tell us how the book is ends with a symbolic phrase “Poo-tee-weet” the noise a bird makes; the reason is because there is no real words or answer as to why the atrocity happened. It is also important to note the alternate title of the book The Children’s Crusade is explained that “The Crusaders were but ignorant and savage men, that their motives were those of bigotry unmitigated, and that their pathway was one of blood and wars. Mackay told us that the Children’s Crusade started in 1213, when two monks got the idea of raising armies of children in Germany and France, and selling them in North Africa as slaves” (11). The significance relates to the pointless death of the children mirroring the death of the citizens in Dresden. Vonnegut created the main character Billy to contrast greatly with what we would expect to see in a war hero, because he didn’t want him to be glorified, as said by the other soldiers “This damn college kid, who was so weak he shouldn’t even have been in the army, asked if he could come along. He didn’t even have a gun or a knife. He didn’t even have a helmet or a cap. He couldn’t even walk right-kept bobbing up-and down, up-and down, driving everybody crazy, giving their position away. He was pitiful.” (22).This illustration of a weal war hero goes against much of the pro war spirit at the time. A criticism I have of Vonnegut is he should have included outside facts about why the bombing was conterverly such as “Dresden’s contribution to the war effort was minimal compared with other German cities, refugees fleeing the Russian advance in the east took refuge there, and city defenses were minimal”(History.com) as well as opinions by the RAF Chief Leader ” I do not personally regard the whole of the remaining cities of Germany as worth the bones of one British Grenadier.”(Taylor). These reveal both sides going outside of killing military personnel to tactics of terrorizing civilians to demoralize a nation, exactly what Vonnegut is fighting against and hoping to inform people about.In the novel he goes about to reveal the effects of war on his character Billy. We can see emotional distress, disillusionment, revenge, and the emptiness of war through the character’s journey. When the timeline shifts to his post-war life we see Billy struggling “sleep would not come. Tears came instead. They seeped. Billy turned on the Magic Fingers(shakes bed), and he was jiggled as he wept.” (31). The character creates a fictitious tale of him being abducted to another planet where the aliens tell him about his ability to look at one’s past, present, and future but not be able to change it. This ideology of a destined future is seen after every death in the novel which is followed by the saying “So it goes”. This concept was a coping method for Billy to deal with all the deaths that he has seen. Revenge, normally hidden under the justification is symbolized when a different character takes revenge upon a dog that simply bit him but putting sharp iron into a steak “Blood started coming out of his mouth. He started crying, and he rolled on the ground, as though the knives were on the outside of him instead of on the inside of him. Then he tried to bite out his own insides. I laughed” (65), the cruelty of man to whip back is seen through wars in history with revenge normally being taken out on the citizens on the other side. After the bombing the character Billy is in his happiest moment riding in a coffin like wagon out of town, symbolic of death even while he is alive, “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” (89). His happiest moment is turned into the the worst in his realization of the state of his horses representing the hollowness of the victory he has achieved.  A key part of Billy traveling through his life was when he was in the hospital next to Rumfoord, a US Air Force historian who told his wife “Americans have finally heard about Dresden,’ said Rumfoord, twenty-three years after the raid. ‘A lot of them know now how much worse it was than Hiroshima. So I’ve got to put something about it in my book. From the official Air Force standpoint, it’ll all be new.’ ‘Why would they keep it a secret so long?’ said Lily. ‘For fear that a lot of bleeding hearts’ said Rumfoord, ‘might not think it was such a wonderful thing to do.'(87). The attempt of the generals to justify the actions is what can be dangerous to a society and makes it easier for people to let governments get involved in a war, an example seen with Vietnam. In conclusion Kurt Vonnegut through his fiction novel created for us a sense of confusion and frustration contrasting what we are expected to see war as it has often been glorified. We see the suffering not only upon the dead but the living as they go through life having to carry the burden of what they saw during war. This book is to shock us into reality and away from the glorification, as the book was published during the Vietnam war which had its own excuse for burning down citizens. While we try to create rules for engagement war itself is chaos without regard for human life. The book serves to make us see through the explanations we are given for war and question the very nature of what we are fighting for.


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