Post Traumatic Disorder in the Novel Slaughterhouse Five
Slaughterhouse Five a novel by a celebrated author Kurt Vonnegut is a story about post-traumatic disorder that was experienced by soldiers after war. Kurt Vonnegut paints a picture of the horrors associated with war and in doing this he uses imagery, satire and symbolism The protagonist Billy who had enlisted as a soldier during the World War 2 was captured by German soldiers and he endured a lot from his captors not until he was rescued after the Russian’s bombed the Dresden where they had been held captives for so long together with other soldiers. It us evident that Billy had post traumatic disorder and using the DSM-V criteria we will evaluate to what extent.
Post traumatic disorder is a mental condition that affects an individual after going through a life changing awful event that scarred their emotions such as death. Any one’s predisposed in developing PTSD but different people have different coping mechanism for their issues. Soldiers have often been identified as the subgroup likely to develop PTSD after going to war because of what they witnessed. According to the Diagnostic Statistics Manual for mental disorders there are key criterion used in the medical field to determine extent of the PTSD. From Billy’s case one criterion evident was intrusion symptoms. Billy experienced thoughts from the war that made it hard for him to sleep and when it got worse he decided to go to the mental hospital with the hope that he would be okay. Vonnegut states that “Billy is spastic in time, has no control over where he is going next…. He is in a constant state of stage fright,” (Vonnegut, pg. 23). Billy cannot escape the horrors that he went through after the war and he constantly revisits the memories
Another DSM criteria is avoidance as we see Billy trying to avoid the thoughts he has about the war in order to rebuild his life. He insulates the painful memories by using the encounters as well as experiences he has had with other people including creating a fictional planet Tralfamadore. In this planet that he envisions he feels safe being away from humans even imagines having married Montana Wildhack an actress whom they have a son together and he is happy that his son will not know the horrors of war. Through the Fantastical visions, Billy tries to focus on his happy life in order to cope with the grief as well as the silent weeping.
Various ways have been suggested on how soldiers who have experienced PTSD can be treated. According to David Finkel in an article titled The Return, he uses Nic who was also a soldier that survived PTSD to explain Haven Behavioral a treatment program for soldiers (Finkel). One aspect of Haven behavioral is talking about the ordeals of the war in order to enable one to move past it. Billy was also able to share his ordeals about the war by talking to his roommate in the mental institution Rosewater who also had experienced the pang of wars. Talking and sharing helps one to avoid avoidance. One cannot be able to change what happened in the past as Vonnegut states “Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were the past, the present, and the future.” (Vonnegut, pg. 126). Nic and Billy by accepting what happened in their past was a step into helping them heal and go back home to their family.
In conclusion, Slaughterhouse Five depicts a picture of soldiers who go through a lot of mental issues after war. Billy who suffered PTSD is brave enough to enroll in a program that helps him cope. We also meet other soldiers who are trying to get better including Rosewater Billy’s friend and both help each other cope. For example, Rosewater introduces Billy to Science fiction novel which greatly helped him in his recovery. His ability to have a family shows how he was able to get better as often most soldiers are unable to do so.
Finkel, David. “The After-War.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 4 Nov. 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/09/09/the-return.
Vonnegut, Kurt. “Slaughterhouse-Five. 1969.” New York: Laurel (1991).