Chapter 1 Explication
an analysis of Chapter 1 of Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five
Analysis of Language
Vonnegut’s rather blunt descriptions of the events in Dresden in Chapter 1 give us the whole idea of what happens in the bombing, as opposed to sugarcoating everything. His use of short, choppy, asyndetic sentences give a visual idea of how disjointed Vonnegut’s recollection of the bombing is. In the first chapter Vonnegut refers back to the war though his written thoughts and words, making jarring, dismal connections between everyday sightings and war-time objects; an example is his comparison between the size of carp and that of atomic submarines on page 12: "There were carp in there and we saw them. They were as big as atomic submarines." Such allusions provide a despondent tone to the otherwise entrancing ramblings of an old war veteran.
From the doleful tone of Chapter 1, we expect that the events will be fairly unfathomable: “Not many Americans knew how much worse it had been than Hiroshima, for instance” (10). Hiroshima is widely publicized, and we learn all about it in school, but it is still difficult to grasp the full magnitude of the destruction the atomic bombs wrought. With that in mind, the fire-bombing of Dresden can only be even further beyond our grasps. Considering the number of people that died in Hiroshima, we believe most of Billy's war friends will be killed, and he will go back to America a broken veteran. As he says in the first chapter with his conversation with Harrison Starr on page 3, his book is antiwar, he supposes. However, a deeper argument will be that of explaining how things actually happen in the war. Maybe not everything is bad, and maybe some things in the war change his life for the better.