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This author used them to see how Kurt Vonnegut is post-modernist.
Barry begins in number one by asking how authors discover postmodernist themes and attitudes. In the observation, postmodernists foreground fiction which might be said to exemplify the notion of the 'disappearance of the real' in which shifting postmodern identities are seen. For number three, there is use of parody, pastiche and allusion. For number four, there is foreground irony for number five narcissism. For number six, the distinction between the high and low cultures is challenged and highlighted in the texts in which they work as hybrid blends of the two.
In other words, Barry maintains that taking the action out of the "real world" and into an imaginary one that creates and facilitates the postmodern. This would explain the convergence in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five of so many seemingly contradictory elements, from the violence of war to sexual subjects such as porn starlet Montana Wildhack, the time and dimensional travel of the alien Tralfamadorians and the allusions to sex and violence that morph and converge together. The sexual release is necessarily the most basic rebellion against war just as the 1960s sexual rebellion of the hippies. Sex and violence both provide a similar release and climax, especially when combined together in this postmodern construction of the world (Barry 91).
Surreal is definitely the type of world that Billy Pilgrim finds him self in. The images of meat and flesh are central to this surreal world. Even as a reconstructed city, Vonnegut describes the 1967 city that he visited on a Guggenheim fellowship as "looking a lot like Dayton, Ohio…there must be tons of human bone meal in the ground (Vonnegut 1)." Vonnegut has a very negative view of the American experience. Even relations with his wife are in this category. When he gets drunk he describes his breathe "like mustard gas and roses (ibid 4)." Interestingly enough, the real Vonnegut seems to be more comfortable with Montana Wildhack, just as Billy Pilgrim is. Bad breathe is not tolerated with porn starlets.
Kurt Vonnegut a.k.a., Billy Pilgrim and then indirectly the alien Trafalmadorians. As well provide a real and unreal background in terms of the ultimate surreal background for Kurt Vonnegut and his characters. In the 1960's, these provided a great mix of the real and the unreal that resonated well amongst Americans. However, nothing seems to be happening during the America of today, given the phenomena of two concurrent ongoing wars that are being fought at the same time in Iraq and Afghanistan. The sexual imagery in Iraq and Afghanistan is much more suppressed and below the surface. Violence and sex together seem to be much more managed to promote violence rather than resist it.
Due to various factors, there is no draft like there was in the 1960's. Rather, this particular war is driven as much by the economic need for the average person to be so basic, that things are much different now than in the earlier experience of the 1960's. People that are in Afghanistan and Iraq can not now say they were drafted. Instead, they can be "blamed" because they have a "choice" of whether or not to go, even if that means to starve or not to starve because of a deep recession.
Again, to conclude, there is a postmodern mix up of Slaughterhouse Five in terms of a surreal character where sex, violence and the unhinging of dimensional reality plays with the readers psyche as much as the author. While some of the inspiration does come from David Irving, this author feels this is inadvertent and should not take away from public admiration for the work in terms of the postmodern originality. Indeed, it is this postmodernism that the give the novel its timeless appeal.
Barry, Peter. Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory
(Beginnings). 2nd ed. New York: Manchester University Press, 2002.
Bonin, Sonja. "Farewell, Hello, Mr. Vonnegut." Atlantic Review. Atlantic Review, 26
April 2007. Web. 4 May 2010.
Kamm, Oliver. "Catastrophic visions forged in Dresden." Times Online. Times Online,
14 April 2007. Web. 4 May 2010.
Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse Five. New York: Bantam Double Day, 1969.[continue]
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