Anti War Message in "Slaughterhouse-five" by Kurt Vonnegut and "Dr Strangelove" by Stanley Kubrick

Published: 2021-09-29 11:00:10
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Humankind cannot endure too much reality: Anti war texts and their conventions stand for diversified modes of perception that alter the emerging streams of interpretations extracted from the human endeavour and it’s universally flawed disorder. Both Kurt Vonnegut’s 1969 anti-war novel, a fusion of meta-fiction and science fiction, Slaughterhouse-Five, and Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 satirical, comedy feature film, Dr Strangelove, examine the war and counterculture of their times, and expose the iniquity, mayhem, and virtues of the human condition, in all its raw sentiments. Through an exploration of Kubrick’s and Vonnegut’s perspectives appropriated across contexts, respective audiences bear a more profound understanding of the relationship between interpretations extrapolated in a text and its milieu, and are compelled to challenge and recognize the significance of the expressed didactic concerns and their imminent presence in the trials and tribulations of today.
War ruptured the position of mankind and ontological perceptions of being, brought to the fore the tensions of time and morality as relative or universal and revealed the resonance of sanity on the human endeavor and individual psyche. Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 Dr Strangelove profoundly explores these ontological notions through characterization and satirical techniques. The decision to render the scenes of conflict between the American troops at the air base fortress with an unstable, handheld camera exhibits the old, boisterous thrill that the military figures crave; yet as responders we are resurfaced away from this past pining by the shrilling cues of tragic savagery, while looming in the shadows stands the ironic sign, “peace is our profession,” only prompting us with a hesitant sort of laughter that drags us back to thought. Additionally, Strangelove himself is an excellent rendition of the radical brain power that madly dominated 1964. Kubrick’s use of Nazi allusion developes his character, as the idea of computers acting as a selection pressure on nuclear survivors aligns with the guards and concentration camps of Nazi Germany – notably, he reflects the angel of death. The employment of mis-en-scene and futuristic setting corresponds to Strangelove’s mechanical arm: it has a tendency to pass into a Nazi Salute, emphasizing the abolishment of humanness in government institutions also present in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5: “it was a moment of truth, too, because American civilians and ground troops didn’t know American bombers were engaged in saturation bombing,” where the government was previously devoted to as a respecter of all life. Yet in all its horror, this is merely an agent of madness and evasion for Strangelove: to adjust to the relative insanity of the human condition. So aroused by mass slaughter, he rises from his wheelchair shrieking “Mein Fuhrer, I can walk! Thus, escapism as a relief is inevitably accentuated as the reality of the human endeavor is degradingly heart wrenching, as is the way in which we condition ourselves to moral objectivity and certain mentality.Again we see a devotion to the existential philosophy surrounding ethics and virtue in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, as the text manifests mania and loss of reason as a product of insanity and the rationalization of war. Aligning with Dr Strangelove, Vonnegut’s text also reveals the jocular elements of an absurd realm to incite a change in values. Through clear antiwar sentiment and mock serious humor, Vonnegut comments on the bombing of Dresden, while indirectly addressing the bombing of Hiroshima, and the burdens of the Great Depression. However, through metafiction, post modern fiction and characterization, he simultaneously disconnects from Dr Strangelove by using time to reveal new viewpoints as diverse subjectivity on morality – the same way that the theory of relativity broke out and came to the fore.
Revealing as an unreliable narrator through the rupturing effect, “That was I. That was me. That was the author of this book,” Vonnegut’s stylistic choice through outlandish authorial interjections allow him to dictate the responder back to the very first sentence, “All this happened, more or less.” blurring the boundary between absurd, lighthearted fiction and tragic reality. Oscillating between his factual presence and the fictional Billy Pilgrim: Vonnegut’s consoling tone displays differences in moral judgments, “Most Tralfamadorians had no way of knowing Billy’s body and face were not beautiful. They supposed that he was a splendid specimen. This had a pleasant effect on Billy, who began to enjoy his body for the first time.” This grants Billy with a sense of dignity: no standpoint on his appearance is uniquely privileged, hence denying universality and reflecting moral relativity in the human condition. Through cumulative listing, “no beginning, no middle, no end, no moral,” a link can be drawn between Vonnegut’s post modern approach that requires us to ‘read in a new way’ and Tralfamadorian literature. Billy ultimately ascends into a science fiction world that denies free will, to obtain acceptance and moral rationality for his life. Slaughterhouse-Five remarkably testifies to war as a collective folly, and an audacious sense of vanity born from the human psyche, only yielding a reaction that speaks nothing, and everything, “Poo-Tee-weet?” in alignment with Kubrick’s “Hi There!” inscribed on the nuclear bombs. Thus, the balance between Vonnegut’s true war memoir and his fictional mediation to storify an atrocity presents the audience with a range of new, intense insights and dualities that reflect the workings of a diverse mode of perception.
The crisis of warfare and the worship of a horrific technology embracing annihilation at the hands of deranged institutions led to the emergence, glorification and the rationalization of mass killing. Kubrick captures the resonating attitudes of a “missile gap” and “mutually assured destruction,” as his use of caricature places the deranged political figures on pedestals of minimal detail. The true horrors of a 1960’s ideology are evaded to the words “mineshaft gap” coupled with Kubrick’s employment of cinematography in three settings – the air force base, the war room, and the B-52 which achieve the political development of which modern war has crafted: the bureaucratization of terror. The layered generalization that is sublimely employed by Kubrick in the war room, embodies powerful figures becoming disconnected from our nature and civilization – revealing a new mode of perceiving governments in the modern limelight, that radically altered traditional concepts of war. It becomes apparent that the strategic impulses of the military commanders are not what the audience should be pondering upon, but rather the need for a revaluation of the military industrial complex and its key bodies. Madness shaped the absurdity of Jack D. Ripper’s “monstrous commie plot” and from deranged internal compulsion, he delivers a unilateral decision to act on a nuclear master plan. Kubrick’s gripping intervals and the collective cloudy haze presented in the film contradict the therapeutic tones of the phone call by the American president to the Soviet premier, in apology for the fact that one of his generals “went a little funny in the head,” reflecting the heightened fear born from the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, invoking the establishment of a “hotline” from the White House to Kremlin. Thus, Kubrick remarkably heightens the necessity to reevaluate and challenge the harmful reverberations that coexist with multilateral institutions and advancing technology.
Additionally, Vonnegut also confronts the irrational institutions that dictate mass slaughter, yet contrarily in a subjective manner that protects the responder’s psyche from unbearable matter. By embracing the origin of traditional narrative conventions: Vonnegut invents an innovation that plays on time, plot and story through a heart wrenching setting. Changes in Vonnegut’s milieu were reflected in his diversified alteration of Kubrick’s work, as exposed in the looming, ever culminating context that compelled both composer’s compositions. In 1969, in the midst of the dismal Vietnam War, Vonnegut’s work acted as a cautionary and critical omen. Slaughterhouse-Five made a forceful statement about the campaign in Vietnam, drastically intensifying and developing Kubrick’s fear of a nuclear holocaust, as the Vietnam war honored incendiary machinery that was, again, being employed against vulnerable civilians in the name of irresolute cause. Through this, Vonnegut channeled a new mode of perception that changed our perspective as an audience on the human condition as a cause of warfare. Within Vonnegut’s disengaged tone and use of anadiplosis through, “So it goes,” we are kept aware that the text is a product of a troubled mind. Through an anecdotal tone, Vonnegut remarkably alludes to the boundless destruction that he lived through but was so drastically undermined; “…he told me about the concentration camps, and about how the Germans had made soap and candles out of the fat of dead Jews and so on. All I could say was, “I know, I know. I know.” Despite Vonnegut’s fragmentation, he profoundly adapts Kubrick’s tone to present an authentic response to one of the most remarkable arguments against war and disorder in all it’s integrity.
Both Slaughterhouse-Five and Dr Strangelove offer visions of serious, yet comical counterparts to express the condemning voice of a generation exasperated with corrupt nations of tongue tied mimics in a war ridden milieu. While Dr Strangelove presents a dehumanized world where the military code of amorality strips away natural empathy, Vonnegut has a shaped a similar image of a fragmented death of individualism in the midst of mass suffering. My own view is that it is undemanding to avoid tragedy, yet there is eminent resonance in confronting it. Indeed, war is traumatizing and serves no purpose but to break humanity into casts of mind, yet it is obligatory for us to address such affliction.
Despite differing starkly in form, time of composition and the overriding tone with which their messages are conveyed, both Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove, and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, depict genuine fears for the future. By examining the cautionary warnings that these texts exhibit, and bringing the contextual qualities of both texts to the fore, a fundamental link can be drawn between the didactic concerns communicated, a new mode of perception that radically diversified traditional concepts of time and morality and a reevaluation of ultimately flawed multilateral institutions: for civilization and humanity.

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