Hinweis: Die Prozentangaben in Klammern zeigen die Gewichtung der einzelnen Aufgaben.
Dieser Vorschlag bezieht sich auf die Pflichtlektüre: Kurt Vonnegut: Slaughterhouse Five
- Outline the effects of violence on Sgt Price. (Material 1) (30 %)
- Compare the image of an American soldier (Material 2) to Billy Pilgrim and Sgt Price. (35 %)
- “America is the only idealistic nation in the world.” Woodrow Wilson (28th President of the U.S. from 1913 to 1921), September 8, 1919. Comment. (35 %)
Sgt Price is an American soldier who has fought in Iraq. He has just arrived back home, and with the help of flashbacks, he remembers scenes and people from the war.
Price’s thoughts seem to be unstructured as he jumps back and forth in what has happened to him and his comrades. A logical order can hardly be seen. This evokes the feeling that Price is unsure of how he can come to terms with the situations he has experienced. Although not a single word is used to describe concrete fight scenes, the reader can vividly imagine the horror.
The first-person narrator does not show any emotion when talking about the war, he just contrasts positive and negative memories, good and bad, everyday life and war experience. He mentions his home at the same time as the torture house (l. 13). Furthermore, he remembers a man in a cage being tortured to death (ll. 14ff). The reader gets the impression that Sgt Price is not really able to make a distinction between life and death. Personal feelings are completely left out; detailed descriptions of anything he has experienced cannot be found. Not even when he talks about his friend Eicholtz, who was shot dead by an insurgent, or when he mentions the pictures of an Iraqi girl, who has apparently developed from an innocent little child into a prostitute and probably even into a suicide attacker, can we read any word of empathy.
The whole text at hand is emotionless, which is why one has to read between the lines for a real understanding of what hell this war means to Price. Every human-like aspect seems to have vanished. The only exception which gives us hope that Price might mentally survive this horror can be found in the very last paragraph. Here, a very personal aspect can be seen: the sign, obviously being held by his wife Cheryl, saying that he is now home, and the most important thing for him to do is to take care of her.
Not only the content, but also the choice of words in the given extract emphasize Sgt Price’s perception of war. The often-repeated use of swear words in combination with war and fight-related situations, as well as at the moment when the soldiers arriving home approach their waiting families, underlines how hard it is for Price to clearly distinguish between the different aspects of his life.
In the given U.S. army advertisement, we can see Specialist Carlos Villarreal, who is being hugged by a girl. The soldier, who is pretty young, has his eyes closed and is smiling while the little girl is putting her arms around his neck from behind. She is kissing him on the cheek. One can assume that both are enjoying the situation. Villarreal is wearing his uniform with a beret and the girl is wearing a hair ribbon.
The picture makes a very peaceful and idyllic impression. The two of them could easily be father and daughter who are happy to be meeting again after a long time of separation, because the father has probably just fought in a war situation, perhaps in Iraq.
The text on this advertisement states that there is a special pride in the army in contrast to just simple pride in general. The text emphasizes the advantages of the army: character, discipline, even the provision of job training or money for a college education. All this is intended to make the addressee want to be part of such a unique group of people sharing the same ideals, which the whole nation (“…the others…”) is proud of. The soldier in general is advertised as a well-respected person; the army is shown as an organization that one should want to join.
In contrast to Villarreal, Sgt Price is a disillusioned soldier who has gone through hell in Iraq, and does not hide it with any euphemistic phrases. He has been in war actions, lost comrades and seen torture. He is not able to express emotions, but just contrasts elements of everyday life, like the appearance of his wife, and those of the war situation, like the girl turning into a suicide attacker. Price can be taken as a symbol for the bad side of being a member of armed forces – you have to actively take part in combat situations and face the risk of killing other people or being killed yourself. You may lose friends, you may have to do things that you would never have imagined before, or you may simply forget that you are a human being, as are the fighters on the other side of the battle field or those hidden somewhere, ready to attack you.
Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, represents an American soldier who was involved in the Second World War. He does not take part in real fighting actions, as he is a chaplain’s assistant, but he can be described as an insignificant soldier who has lost any trace of personality. He does not show any character, but is a passive victim who is pushed about by the others. Although he is in the army, he does not represent the heroic picture one may have of the defender of democracy who is sent to other countries to fight for what is right.
Pilgrim is shown as a fool who obviously does not understand the situation he is in. He behaves like an innocent child that is being forced to do something it cannot comprehend. Here, the author of the novel draws parallels between children on a crusade (see subtitle of his novel) and animals being led to the slaughterhouse (see title), both unable to make their own decisions but having to follow those of others.
All three characters – Carlos Villarreal, Sgt Price and Billy Pilgrim – represent aspects of the army. The latter one stands for a weak-willed, not-questioning-anything-at-all soldier who turns into a plaything for all the others. There is nothing heroic in him. In contrast, Sgt Price has no false illusions about reality, having personally seen the worst aspects of a soldier’s life. Nothing can gloss over dead corpses, dying friends or snipers. Finally, good-looking Villarreal, shown on an advertisement for the army, looks like a man who enjoys his job. He stands for all the positive attitudes the population should have towards the army: strength, pride, and trust.
Finally, one can say that the message behind all three men representing the American army is focused on one common idea: What is the reason behind an army, what does the army fight for? Should the army be idolized and not questioned? This is what everyone must find out for himself, and thus make up their own mind about the sense and nonsense of armies.
When the given quotation was made in 1919, Woodrow Wilson was president of the USA. The world had just survived World War I, and was trying to reconstruct their economy and politics. Uncountable numbers of people worldwide were suffering from the effects of the war, approx. 17 million civilians and soldiers had lost their lives, political structures were being newly ordered – the world had never seen such immense change before.
The USA entered the 1st World War only in 1917, after a phase of non-intervention politics and staying neutral. But, at the same time, they made a lot of profit selling war material to those countries already involved. With this economic boom, the rising of America to a superpower was set on stable ground.
Looking at the context of the quotation at hand, we should think of the basic features that Wilson wanted to emphasize: the hope of the nations when they follow the USA, the love of justice as an inevitable fact, or the realization that the USA was now a role model for every other country. The USA defined - and still defines - itself as a great idealistic force in history. Being idealistic means that you strongly believe in perfect standards and values, and try to achieve them even when they are not realistic. These perfect standards must be put into reality, no matter the costs.
After World War II, the USA could already be regarded as a superpower, which one can see as being synonymous to an idealistic nation. A superpower is a country which has enough military, political and economic might to convince other nations to do things they otherwise would not. They wanted to limit the influence of the Soviet Union and their supporters, and this resulted in the Cold War, which lasted for more than 40 years and confronted the world with actions that almost led to the edge of a catastrophe.
As a matter of fact, the responsible politicians in the USA did not consider life and suffering when they, for example, gave the order to fight in Vietnam. The only reason for this tragedy was to keep their influence in Asia. We all know about the end of that terrible war, which is still a topic today in the USA when it comes to discussions about patriotism and the support of the country. On the one side, there are those who proudly state that they fought for democracy in this far-away country, and on the contradicting side, there are those who refused to fight a senseless war and kill innocent people who were only trying to defend their home country.
Over the last decades, the USA has tried to force their ideals onto other countries all over the world. They still dream their dream of being a nation that everyone else looks up to. History has seen American soldiers fighting in other countries without a legalizing mandate by the UNO, and where the USA was just following their own interests. Also, Syria and Iraq are examples of the USA interfering in the political affairs of independent countries. Of course, there are fundamental differences between just invading a country and trying to change the existing conditions on the one hand, and supporting the population against a dictator and rescuing them from mortal danger on the other. Nonetheless, in a globalized world, no country should assume the right of deciding what is good or bad for another country.
Today, almost 100 years after Wilson’s quotation, the USA is still a superpower. Many people say it is the only one. Firstly, the American economy is fundamental for the global financial system. Secondly, their military superiority remains unrivaled. They dominate across land, sea, air and even space. Furthermore, there is the political influence, which is based on stability at home. This stability can be seen in the fact that more than 40 million people living in the USA were foreign-born. This shows that America remains the ideal place to start a new life. Next to this, America sees and promotes the growing importance of the technology sector. They have encouraged excellent universities and scientific institutions to do research. Last but not least, one should mention the American lifestyle and culture. The population there still enjoys a quality of life which is hardly met in the rest of the world. Just think of charities helping strangers and people in need, or think of the rich mixture of humans living in the USA, with their different origins and their diverse heritage.
As a final conclusion, one can say that Woodrow Wilson was right in his evaluation of the United States in 1919, as well as foreseeing their importance in the 21st century.
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