The Tralfamadorian Philosophy in Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut
During the Second World War, Americans were sent into Germany to fight off Nazism, and when they came back home, it was hard for them to transition back to normal life. Vonnegut, the author of Slaughterhouse-Five was one of those soldiers, and in his book he creates a character named Billy who was so affected by war that he claims that he was kidnapped by an alien race who call themselves the Tralfamadorians. Billy is affected by the Tralfamadorian views and to some extent loses his mind by rejecting free will, fantasizing death, escaping war, and dreaming of seeing all points in time at once like the Tralfamadorians.
When Billy is first kidnapped by the Tralfamadorians, he feels as if he is trapped in his current situation. Billy is confused as to why he is the one that was captured instead of anyone else, and the Tralfamadorians respond with ‘there is no why’. The aliens tell Billy while he is captured that ‘only on Earth is there any talk of free will’ and it is silly to think that it exists. On their planet, the beings teach Billy that from the beginning to the end of his life, he will be trapped in every moment of his life. They go on to describe the feeling of being caught in a moment like being a bug trapped in amber. The moments will never stop or cease to exist unless a person dies.
After the Tralfamadorians explained this to Billy, he begins to realize that free will doesn’t exist just as they said. He understands that moments always exist, and humans are stuck in the current one. Life goes on without being able to stop it, and eventually, Billy becomes calm knowing this fact and doesn’t fight the way his life is moving or has moved. He claims to know when he will die and that he will be assassinated, but he doesn’t seem to care because that’s what he learned on Tralfamadore when he was there. To remind himself that everything that happens, happens for a reason Billy often repeats the phrase, ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change’. Another character, Montana Wildhack, has this displayed on a necklace she wears, so when Billy sees her, he is reminded of this phrase and the meaning he makes of it.
While Billy is a prisoner of war and aboard the Tralfamadorian spaceship, he thinks about free will in war and if humans did have free will, then conflict should not prevail. He thinks about all that the Tralfamadorians have taught him, and now he doesn’t agree with war or any other type of large scale conflict. After witnessing the firebombing in Dresden, he believes that there must be a way to prevent actions such as this. War is inhumane, and no human should willingly want to be used as a puppet for the act of war. In Slaughterhouse-Five, most of the characters are affected by the lack of free will and those that are not affected are often to be sadistic humans. Roland Weary, for example, believes that he is a tough fighter known for his torture techniques and ways of killing people. In reality, he was ditched by soldiers better than him, and he was forced to wander around a forest with Billy, so Weary often makes fun of him.
Weary eventually dies during the war and Billy just accepts it. Billy, again is used to Tralfamadorian way of thinking instead of sorrow and mourning for death on Earth. When a Tralfamadorian dies on their planet, they are still alive in all of their previous moments, so the Tralfamadorians don’t think about death as a noteworthy occasion. In addition to this Billy can also go forward and backward to various points in time like the Tralfamadorians can, and he knows how he will die and he’s not at all concerned. The Tralfamadorians changed his ideals to make him believe that death isn’t anything to be sad about, according to the Tralfamadorians. In fact, anytime someone dies, the Tralfamadorians just respond with ‘so it goes”. Billy’s speaks his ideals so that they are clear to readers when he says: “The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past… All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed and always will exist… It is an illusion we have on Earth that one moment followed another one like beads on a string, and once that moment is gone, it’s gone forever.” Even though moments pass by quickly, the aliens often advise Billy to focus on the more joyous parts of life and not to dwell on the more serious or sad moments. They go on saying look at only the more beautiful things of life, because life is mostly wondrous.
Though life may be beautiful and wondrous, there is still conflict and chaos that ensues. While on Tralfamadore, Billy relates to the aliens concerning wars on Earth, and what an extraordinary danger to all life the humans of his planet must be. The Tralfamadorians view his worries as incompetent because they know how the world ends and it is not because of humans. The Tralfamadorians eternal view is not that humans are preposterous and primitive to take part in war. It is that Billy is so simple-minded to expect such a consistent future, and he overestimates the significance of the human part in the Universe. Specifically, he exaggerates free will and neglects to perceive that war and extreme destruction happen, because that is the way it is supposed to happen.
In explaining all of this to Billy, they make him ‘dead to the world’ and take away his ability to live successfully, but Billy’s Tralfamadorian encounters enable him to deal with all the death he has seen, because death doesn’t mean anything to them. Billy’s Tralfamadorian dreams are an opiate that causes him adapt to injury, much like the morphine he was given subsequent to losing control in the German prisoner of war camp. Billy is continually dragged back to his wartime memories, because they have influenced him significantly, and he is unable to ignore them. The last thing that the Tralfamadorians teach Billy about is time. They tell him that it is not linear and has no limits or boundaries. Time is simply time. There is no escaping it or running away from it. Humans must exist and bear through each moment unlike the Tralfamadorians who can see all moments at once.
While in some ways the Tralfamadorian reasoning may appear to be more rational than humans perspectives of time and the Universe to Billy, they were written to appear almost comical in the fact that their bodies are shaped and colored strangely. What’s more, the Tralfamadorians sound suspiciously like the German guards while Billy was a prisoner of war. Specifically, like a German guard who severely beats an American prisoner and says, ‘Vy You? Vy Anybody?’ The Tralfamadorians also say, ‘Why You? Why Us For That Matter? Why Anything?’ when Billy inquires as to why they have picked him to take with them. There is no why in anything that happens. The Tralfamadorians even know about how the Universe ends but they don’t stop it. As opposed to acting in attempt to change the future, the Tralfamadorians reveal to Billy they just don’t even look at it. They explain to him and tell him that it’s better just to look at the happy times. For Billy, all time is fluid and runs together. Each moment passes quickly, but it doesn’t matter to him, because he can appear in any one of them whenever he wants to. Billy uses this ability to cope with the fact that he witnessed the event in Dresden all those years ago.
Billy in an attempt to see all points in time like the Tralfamadorians, he frequently becomes unstuck in time. He creates the Tralfamadorians and their philosophy to try to prevent losing his mind, but it doesn’t work. Billy cannot forget that he witnessed Dresden, and frequently sees visions of those memories pass through his mind over and over again. By the end of his life, Billy is ready to die because of all of the philosophy he learned on Tralfamadore. He completely gives up on having a single ounce of free will because he is taught that it doesn’t exist while he is there. Death affects him to the point that he doesn’t even recognize that it is there. The conflict around him becomes looked over so that the happier times are the ones that are the most remembered. Moments around him are passing without any chance of stopping and he has the ability to travel through them. The result of Billy being kidnapped and taken to Tralfamadore was that he was less of a functioning human being when he left.
Portrayal Of The Damage Caused By War Through The Protagonist In Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five
In Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, the author uses the protagonist Billy Pilgrims experiences to portray the damage caused by war. Billy Pilgrim, a veteran of WWII, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological disorders from his experiences in the war. Due to these mental illnesses, Billy believes he can travel through time and space, ultimately seeing time differently. Through his time travel, he attempts to understand and express the atrocities he experienced in the war. He simply cannot understand the world in which he lives after the war. Through this struggle of Billy, Vonnegut argues that war contains no meaning and causes more harm than good. He uses the phrase “so it goes”, the Tralfamadorian view on time, and the structure of the novel to raise important questions about war and to open people’s eyes to the harm it causes. Throughout the novel, Vonnegut uses the phrase “So it goes” to connect together all the deaths that occur. This repetition create a sense of satire throughout the novel. So it goes functions to make death seem meaningless, that all death simply does not matter and contains no meaning. Billy adopts this believe so much so that he does not care about his own death nor the death of his friends. “Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Trafamadoians say about dead people, which is ‘so it goes’”. Through Billy’s apathy towards death, Vonnegut argues that death does have meaning and that people should care when people die. The satire here represents the view people have on war and how Vonnegut wants that to change. He argues that due to the death and destruction war causes it should carry a heavy weight when leaders make decisions.
This Tralfamadorians believe in a nonlinear timeline which contains many implication towards Vonnegut’s argument. When Billy asks questions about the view of time to the Tralfamadorians, they describes it as “seeing time as you might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains”. This theory of time means one can see so much of it at once. They can move to see the beginning and the end. To further this image, he also uses this analogy; “Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber”. This image refers to bugs who have been crystallized in amber for hundreds of years. The Tralfamadorians argue that in earthling view of time, humans get stuck too much in the single moments and don’t understand that “All moment, past, present, and future always have existed, always will exist”. These differing viewpoints change the way people live their lives. Humans, more so than the Tralfamadorian, value the moment. The Tralfamadorians however can see all of time past, present, and future. They can see what happens in the future, yet choose to do not change anything. This apathy serves to build on the satirical nature of the novel. Vonnegut argues here that carelessness of war means pitfalls and damages. The Tralfamadorians know how the universe gets destroyed, they cause it through an accident occurring during a rocket fuel test. They have knowledge about how the accident will occur yet change nothing. People know that going to war has the probability of killing many people yet still engage in it. Vonnegut purposely creates this similarity to illustrate the problem that keeps occurring. Vonnegut uses the structure of the novel to illustrate the struggles caused to people as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder. When Billy time travels, he “has no control over where he is going next, and the trips aren’t always necessarily fun.” The spacisity of his time travel relates directly to veterans having memories and dreams of war. Vonnegut emphasizes these similarities even more so by having half of the novel consists of memories of real time war. This back and forth mirrors someone inability to remove a certain memory from of their head. He also discusses the difficult nature of coping with PTSD. Billy pilgrim uses the idea of time travel to attempt to cope, process, and understand the experiences he encountered in war. He relives certain events in this other planet several times displaying the struggles he encountered. Vonnegut also displays Billy’s inability to process the events of war in his own life through Billy’s interaction with his daughter. She calls to him and he does not respond, “Father? Daddy, Where are you? And so on. Billy didn’t answer her, so she was nearly hysterical…”.
Not only does this search for her father happening in real life but occurs metaphorically as well. Billy cannot help his daughter understand his struggles because he cannot even process it himself. All these scenes further Vonnegut’s point that veterans suffering from PTSD struggle themself and so do their family. He also uses this to argue about the negative aspects of war. He ultimately means the benefits of war do not out weight the negative aspects of it. Vonnegut also uses the structure of the novel to argue about the meaninglessness of war. Throughout the novel, Vonnegut seems to haphazardly switch between Billy’s time travel and the war. Through the different shifts, little logic seems involved in their organization. This represents the illogical nature of war. It does not make sense to participate in war when it causes all this hurt to its victims. Vonnegut seems to give insight into this structure when the Tralfamadorians tell Billy about how they write their books; “there isn’t any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep”. He uses this crazy, mixed up story to show his audience the complexities of war. These two different ways he uses the structure of the novel to argue against war are directly relates to his experiences in war. Vonnegut himself suffered through WWII as a veteran. He expresses his struggles and hardships with coping through the charter of Billy. Vonnegut agrees through this that hope can be seen and something “beautiful, surprising and deep” through all of this depressing aspects of war. Billy has a quote in his office that offers more insight into the whole argument of the novel; “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom always to tell the difference”. Billy’s inability to do these things builds an ironic aspect to the story. He cannot change his past and must come to terms with that.
In order to move on, he needs to understand this. Billy serves as testament that when one cannot understand this concept, he will have a difficult and painful life. Vonnegut argues that there certain aspects of people’s lives cannot change and that the key to living in peace and happiness people must be able to understand those things. All in all Vonnegut uses Billy as an example of how now to deal with stress and trauma in one’s past. Vonnegut has experiences similar to Billy’s so this novel serves as a way for him to process these events at all. In a similar fashion as Billy using his fake reality, Vonnegut uses this fictional novel to process his all too real life. This personal insight builds to the meaning of the novel. People process their past in different ways. Some people cannot succeed, like Billy. The final section of the novel show Billy at the end of the war. He had been burning and burying bodies. The novel end with a bird saying “Poo-tee-weet?”. This phrase repeats several times throughout the novel. It continues to signify the illogical nature of war. Nothing else can be said except for some nonsensical phrase by a bird. This has more significant because the newly freed prisoners do not celebrate. They simply stand there, unable to process that the war has finished. Vonnegut includes a question mark as if one could understand the question. This questions functions to show that war has no simple answers. This represents Vonnegut’s beliefs about war. There is nothing logical about it, it hurts all involved, and needs to end, but how? Vonnegut does discuss the inevitability of wars; “What he meant, of course, was that there would always be wars, that they were as easy to stop as glaciers”. Vonnegut does not know the answer because there may not be one. This novel expresses the dangers so that changes may happen eventually in the future.
The novel Slaughterhouse Five raises important questions about the necessity of war based on the harm it causes to the people involved. Vonnegut, thought the story of BIlly Pilgrim, show the struggles of living through post- war life as a person who has been a part of it. Billy creates an alternate reality in his head which represents this struggle. Vonnegut also builds his argument through the structure he employs throughout the novel. He uses a confusing seemingly random arrangement to represent the meaninglessness of war. Finally, he uses a nonsensical question of a bird to show that he cannot think of an answer to this complex issue. Through this book, Vonnegut hopes to show the way not to struggle through a traumatic past. He uses Billy’s story to display this.
The Meaning of the Structure in Vonnegut’s Novel
One of the most distinguishing aspects of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five is the structure in which it is written. Throughout the novel, Billy Pilgrim travels uncontrollably to non-sequential moments of his life, or as Vonnegut says, “paying random visits to all events in between.” (23). In order to exemplify this for the reader, Vonnegut uses a non-linear and seemingly sporadic storyline. However, by the end of the novel, Vonnegut’s use of plot fragmentation is clear. By constantly jumping back and forth throughout time, Vonnegut keeps all of the novel’s most significant events fresh in the reader’s mind.
With his immediate and thought provoking introduction, “Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time”(23), Vonnegut establishes that there is something unique about Billy Pilgrim. By choosing the word “unstuck”, he implies that Billy has just been freed of something. In doing so, Vonnegut also prepares the reader for the non-linear storyline that follows. In fact, the rest of the novel consists of nothing more than random moments of Billy Pilgrim’s life. By portraying Billy in this way, the reader gets an all-encompassing perspective of Billy as a person, instead of having a myopic view that is based on a particular incident of Billy’s life.
This same technique also allows Vonnegut to keep significant parts of Billy’s life fresh in the reader’s mind throughout the novel. For example, Billy’s experience during World War II and the bombing of Dresden are some of the most significant parts of his life. Vonnegut introduces them to the reader very early on in the novel simply by mentioning “Billy first came unstuck while World War II was in progress” (30). Again, Vonnegut’s way of writing has allowed him to redefine what makes sense in Slaughterhouse Five, as opposed to a typical chronological novel. As a result, the reader will be aware of the ongoing war, allowing them to build a mental picture that is constantly being developed with each event Billy encounters.
Furthermore, Vonnegut’s ability to give a first-hand account of an event before it happens chronologically in turn allows readers to be able to reflect on an event as it resurfaces later in the novel. Again, this theme most strongly relates to Billy’s wartime experiences. Vonnegut returns time after time to the violence and destruction that surrounded Billy while he was a prisoner of war. And since these frightful and damaging thoughts rarely leave Billy’s mind, Vonnegut makes it so that they do the same for the reader.
While Billy’s horrific experiences during the war play an active role in his personality and lifestyle, he is manipulated even further by his ability to become “unstuck in time”. Because Billy is constantly jumping through time, he is never given the opportunity to become comfortable in a single moment of his life. As a result, Billy says that he is in “a constant state of stage fright” (Vonnegut 23). This explains Billy’s lack of focus and initiative that is evident throughout the novel. He is forced to improvise his entire life, attempting to portray all of it at once, going fearfully from one moment to another, always without warning. Billy’s life consists of pieces that have no obvious coherency with on and other.
Vonnegut himself sums up the meaning of his approach in describing the Tralfamadorian’s books through the words of Billy Pilgrim, Vonnegut writes: “There isn’t any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.” (Vonnegut 88). In this statement, Vonnegut emphasizes once more the importance of viewing many moments as a whole picture. At first glance, the spontaneous events appear to be incompatible with each other, telling many stories, but signifying nothing. However, this is exactly what Vonnegut hoped to achieve; these separate stories force the reader to view them all as one, or not at all.
A Strange Case of Self-assertion in Vonnegut’s Novel
Assuming you got a message anonymously, informing you that you were going to die because of a car accident tomorrow at noon, would you use this message to try avoiding death or would you simply accept and embrace your destiny? Many people, presumably, would be willing to make an effort to keep death away. But Billy Pilgrim’s reaction is acceptance. Slaughterhouse-Five, written by Kurt Vonnegut, presents protagonist Billy Pilgrim as accepting nearly all the events that happened in his life, including his own death. Billy is indifferent and apathetic to his surroundings. He appears to be a fatalist, which sends readers the superficial message that Vonnegut is advocating passive acceptance. In contrast, the actual message is hidden a little more deeply. Instead of actually persuading the reader to truly believe in the idea of fatalism and giving up free will, Vonnegut hoped to incite the reader to resist fatalism and consider profoundly what free will means.
Vonnegut uses the sentence “it is structured that way” to explain why events have happened. When Billy is trapped by Tralfamadorian aliens for the first time, he asks for a reason why he is chosen. Instead of giving an explicit answer, Tralfamadorians respond to him with three questions: “Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything?”(97). Three consecutive “whys” evoke a deeper thought: whether people make decisions just because they are doomed to. Tralfamadorians believe that “this moment simply is” (97), indicating that moments always occur without any reason. However, the inability to think of a reason, or the lack of awareness of one, doesn’t mean that the reason does not exist. Humans are manipulated neither by God nor by Fate. It is they who have the power to choose the path to walk on. Paths are created by choices, while choices originate from reasons. The Tralfamadorians met Billy not because time is structured, or that they are fated to encounter him; they met him because Tralfamadorians made a decision to study Earthlings and they chose to come to the Earth. Tralfamadorians, serve as characters advocating fatalism, also made an implicit decision which indicates Vonnegut actually encourages the reader to stand on the side of free will.
Billy Pilgrim, in an ironic twist on free will, learned to accept and embrace his fate after he met Tralfamadorians. They once told Billy that the universe was destroyed by one of their pilots when “experimenting with new fuels” (149). Facing his question that why not prevent it, Tralfamadorians explained to him that the pilot “has always pressed it, and he always will” (149) and that they “always let him and they always will let him” (149). Tralfamadorians convince Billy that these and indeed any occurrences cannot be altered by any creature. Even though they know how the universe is going to be destroyed, they are not willing to make changes due to their belief in fatalism. Conversely, what if the universe is eventually destroyed just because they take no action to rescue it? It is their belief in fatalism that causes the end of the universe, yet they use the excuse “the time is structured” and fatalism to explain and cover up their fault.
Billy stayed on Tralfamadore for several days, and when away from it he yearned for the “peaceful life” on the planet. What he didn’t know is that they “have wars as horrible as any he’s ever seen or read about on other days” (150). They live tranquilly by “ignoring bad moments” and “spending eternity looking at pleasant moments” since they firmly believe that “there isn’t anything they can do about them” (150). Tralfamadorians deemed it true that occurrence could not be altered, so they used the method of avoiding instead of making an effort to change or make up for bad moments. Indeed, avoiding bad moments could bring much happiness. But all moments are fixed moments. Even though there may be no chance to start over and stop it from happening, it is useless to avoid and simply give up the chance of remedy. Tralfamadorians would not like to make up for those horrible moments or wars because of fatalism. In fact, “fatalism” is their methods of avoiding confronting bad moments and terrible experiences.
Even though the book is full of moments spreading fatalism superficially, there’s no lack of scenes supporting free will, but Vonnegut depicts them in a subtle way. When the commander comes to persuade American soldiers to fight Russians with him, almost no one stands up to speak against him. Vonnegut explains “one of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters” (208). He suggests that soldiers have been tortured by war so long that their only reaction to a new war is acceptance. They have already given up their free will. However, when Edgar Derby chooses to speak up and resist new war, Vonnegut describes him, saying he “was a character now” (208). He addresses the idea that free will offers the ability to possess one’s own characteristics and to be a true character.Billy holds a belief in fatalism, but he is not a fanatic of it. There are also several moments Vonnegut depicts showing free will inside Billy’s heart. Vonnegut implies to the reader that Billy doesn’t like to talk about Tralfamadorians and always keeps it as a secret in his heart. Even when people ask him about it, he denies that he has secrets inside him. However, “Billy went to New York City, and got on an all-night radio program devoted to talk. He told about having come unstuck in time. He said, too, that he had been kidnapped by a flying saucer in 1967” (32). After being through all these experiences, Billy becomes active and makes a decision by himself: speak about Tralfamadorians in front of the public. He doesn’t hide secrets and he isn’t passive any more. He chooses to be himself instead of being a victim of fate.
At the moment Billy decides to unveil his secret and speak about time-travel in public, he is on the side of free will, and so is Vonnegut.Vonnegut always leaves a small space for rumination and refutation when depicting every moment that advocated fatalism. He hopes readers will consider more deeply instead of just looking at the surface. By expressing the message of free will indirectly, he helps us to understand and comprehend those who believe in fatalism, and then build up our own idea. Hence, Vonnegut is making a strong case for the significance of free will.
The Countercultural Discourse of Vonnegut’s Novel
Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five is, at first glance, nothing more than a science fiction tale of one man’s travels to another planet and his ability to view his life out of chronological order because of his power to time travel. There are too many similarities to historical facts, human philosophies, and Vonnegut’s own life for readers to believe that this novel about another world was created solely for entertainment, though. In looking at the deeper meaning behind this piece, we see that the physical setting is always Earth, and that the travels that Billy Pilgrim takes are simply hallucinations, created either from chemicals or Pilrgim’s head injuries. By understanding Vonnegut’s experiences with war and placing the publication of the novel during the late 1960’s, readers are able to see that the author is condemning not only the Vietnam War, but also the counterculture movement that ignored the problems of the war.
Vonnegut’s condemnation of war comes quickly in this piece, as the book begins with the author’s narration about the creation of the piece. In attempting to create a novel about his personal experiences in World War II, Vonnegut visits one of the men that was with him in Dresden, Bernard O’Hare. During their conversation, O’Hare’s wife, Mary, becomes upset because she believes that Vonnegut will glorify the thrill of victory over the enemy, furthering the romantic fascination the man has with war. She argues that they “were just babies then,” robbed of their innocence and forced to witness unnecessary violence that either haunted them or had been repressed so much that they forgot a great deal about the experience. The writer agrees with her view and pledges that the book will not celebrate the war.
Chapter Two begins the saga of Billy Pilgrim. Quickly, we are informed of the parallels between Vonnegut and Pilgrim, such as their identical ages and their imprisonment in Dresden. Pilgrim, though, has a special gift, given to him by the Tralfamadorians, which is the ability to travel throughout time. Here, the Tralfamadorians are supposed to represent a society following the ideals of the counterculture, who were given extrasensory powers by the drugs that they ingested. It is possible to hypothesize that Billy’s first encounter with the Tralfamadorians was a result of the half-full bottle of champagne that he drank at his daughter’s wedding. Whether or not the drink was spiked with a psychoactive substance is debatable, but Vonnegut does support this conclusion by incorporating the “Drink Me” phrase (73), reminiscent of a scene in from the movie Alice in Wonderland, created in 1951. Remember that during the late 1960’s, the story was used by the counterculture to illustrate the hypocrisy they felt that parents had, for parents taught the story which was laced with numerous drug references, yet taught children that drugs were bad (ex. “White Rabbit” by the Jefferson Airplane).
Pilgrim’s trip to Tralfamadore resembles a visit to a counterculture haven such as the Haight-Ashbury district. Just as Billy and Montana are put in a zoo, tours of San Francisco in the late 1960’s included the famous hippie haven, where tourists witnessed a culture that was entirely foreign to them. The Tralfamadorian guide that talks to Billy upon his arrival reminds readers of a leader like Ken Kesey, especially since he is referred to as a guide. This is the same term that is used when Kesey refuses to be the guide for Sandy’s unauthorized trip in the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. (EKAAT, 97) In addition to the similarity in wording, the Tralfamadorian philosophies also resemble those of the counterculture. Echoing Kesey’s sentiments at Berkeley, the guide tells Billy to close his eyes to the bad. He tells him that there is no such thing as free will, for one’s life is planned, thus there is no reason to try to stop it. Instead, one must go with the flow, experiencing whatever time period he is taken to as it occurs. Both good and bad experiences may be recalled, but the Tralfamadorian informs Billy that the trick is to “Ignore the awful times, and concentrate on the good ones.” (117)
Since the book is semi-autobiographical, one wonders whether Vonnegut experimented with any psychoactive substances and hallucinated this alternate reality. Regardless, the novel shows even if he did, both he and Billy do not agree with the Tralfamadorian’s helpless views. One of the first indicators is that Billy is taken against his will and placed in a cage. He is not given the option of returning to Earth and is only released after his captors grow bored of him. Another example of Billy’s refusal to accept Tralfamadorian beliefs is the long quotation found on the wall of his office (60), taken from the inscription on Montana’s locket, which serves both as a reminder of her and as Billy’s belief that some parts of the future can be changed if one has the courage to do so.
The creation of the world is done solely as a condemnation of counterculture values, as it emphasizes the hopelessness of their views. By repeatedly using the phrase “So it goes” following any bad situation, Vonnegut mocks those who simply accept or ignore the bad experiences that life brings us. His use of the phrase so frequently annoys the reader, especially in a situation such as the inevitable destruction of Tralfamadore.(117) In addition, the destruction of the planet emphasizes that society can not survive if it is unwilling to change.
In following typical structure for science fiction pieces, Vonnegut makes the aliens the misguided race and uses them to illustrate the views that he disputes. In a technique that I have seen used in other science fiction pieces, such as film Planet of the Apes, the aliens are really our current civilization if societal trends continue. His preoccupation with the Children’s Crusade, an event that occurred 750 years earlier, shows that society has not taken the courage to change its violent ways. The author sees the counterculture philosophy of shirking responsibility and going with the flow to be even more detrimental, since society is already showing its inability to change based upon history. In addition, by showing that the world was ended by experimentation with new fuels, much as the United States and Russia had been experimenting with atomic weapons at the same time as the book’s publication, Vonnegut expresses his urgency for societal change. In this respect, since the Tralfamadorians represent a human civilization enveloped in counterculture ideals, the novel is Vonnegut’s plea to society to take notice of what is happening and change it by ending war before mankind destroys itself.
Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five As An Example Of Postmodern Literature
Postmodernism emerged after modernism. This term is used to refer to a period in history. But it is also used to refer to a series of ideas in history. Postmodernism is a thought movement that emerged in America and then in Europe after World War II. Postmodernism, in literature, refers to both the reality and the other side of the imagination, and the other faces of being and phenomena. Literature, art, philosophy, architecture, fiction, and cultural and literary criticism, is a general and comprehensive term applied among others. It is largely a reaction to the scientifically or objectively considered certainty of truth-clarification efforts. The term is associated with skepticism, irony, and philosophical criticism of the concepts of universal truths and objective reality. Postmodern literature is a form of literature marked by literary rules such as fragmentation, paradox, unreliable narratives, unrealistic and impossible images, games, parody, paranoia, black humor and authoritarian self, both in style and ideologically. There is no absolute truth. The true concept is believed to be a controversial illusion, misused by people and special interest groups to gain power over others. For them, morality is personal. To believe that ethics is relative, postmodernists subject morality to personal opinion. They have defined each individual’s special code of ethics without having to follow the traditional values and rules. Characteristic of postmodern literature, meta-fiction, interest in other cultures, fragmentariness, experimentalism, magic realism, technoculture, reader-response and text plurality, subjectivism, skepticism, organic structure, pastiche, psychology. Slaughterhouse-Five written by Kurt Vonnegut is one example of postmodernism.
Slaughterhouse-Five, written by Kurt Vonnegut, published during the Vietnam War period, features the characteristics of postmodernism. One of the postmodern features used in Slaughterhouse Five is fragmentation. As a postmodern writer, Vonnegut uses the fragmentation very well. Through this technique, the author shows the anti-war feeling. The author depicts Billy as a fragmented character. The author showed the time as fragmented. In the Slaughterhouse Five, the author shows the fragmented nature of his text. Due to the fragmentation of time is no past, present, or future time. In this text, the narrative style is also fragmented. Non-linear narratives were used to tell the story. This means that there is no beginning, no middle and no end.
The story begins in the middle of the story, returning to the beginning of the story. The main character Billy is a fragmented character. He has no control over his time travel. Although he said he could see the past and the future through time travel, all the events were hallucinated. Flashback and flash forward, a narrative technique was used. Flashback is a technique in which the author demonstrations us the events in Billy’s life. The author shows the current time and then shows the time past. The author used Slaughterhouse Five meta-fiction. For example, the first and last sections are Vonnegut talking directly to the reader. The author used irony in the novel. Vonnegut has shown a lot of irony in this text. For example He is the assistant of a priest, he cannot help his friends nor harm enemies. It looks ironic because he needs to help his friends normally in the war, and as a doctor, he has to help the wounded. Another irony is Billy, Weary, and two cynical men lost in the snow forest. Then he leaves two scouts Billy and Weary behind because they think Billy and Weary will put them in danger. But ironically, both of them were shot and killed, even though they had more military knowledge than Billy and Weary.
Kurt Vonnegut used the dark humor and irony in Slaughterhouse Five. The novel enables the reader to understand the horrors of war while at the same time laughing at some of the absurd circumstances it can create. For the most part, Vonnegut wants the reader to recognize the fact that he has to accept something as it is because nobody can change the inevitable. The effect of postmodernism on Slaughterhouse Five is evident in the form of questioning both the subjectivity and the comparison of the narrator’s omnipotent powers. Tralfamadorians are foreign creatures with powers. The narrator has shown how subjective storytelling is. The narrator reminded the reader that time and again the novel was a work of fiction and staging. The Tralfamadorians reflected the narrator’s ability to read minds and travel in time and space. Billy Pilgrim, on the other hand, lost control of time perception. His life and the structure of the narrative show fragmentation. The absurd and ironic humor that the author used to describe Billy’s life, in his novel, he contrasted historical accounts of ‘official’ history as historical meta-fiction. The novel does not end with a good victory against evil, and Billy Pilgrim has not found clarity about why this is all. There is no defined morality for humanity or others, but the author leaves the reader with a postmodern and pragmatic view of the horrors of humanity. In the novel, the abduction of Billy Tralfamadorians is described as magic realism.
As a result, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, published during the Vietnam War period, transmits all the basic features of postmodernism. In the novel, the author presents the only way out of the dark humor of the idea of the meaningless, rotten world. This novel, with traces of Vonnegut’s memories of the Second World War, is the story of Billy Pilgrim, who has a travel problem at the time, who cannot stay at the ‘now’. Billy goes back and forth, and Billy eventually realizes that he must concentrate on good things instead of bad things. Slaughterhouse-Five is a didactic or anti-war novel as well as science fiction or apocalypse. It has aroused various reactions and emotions in readers. Postmodern features used in the novel, magic realism, historiographical meta-fiction, meta-fiction, irony, parody, black humor.
The Truth of Death in Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut
In war, there is always one constant. Death is inevitable in war. Death can be a traumatic experience especially if someone has witnessed so much of it. In the novel Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut creatively portrays how war traumatizes and desensitizes people. Two motifs that repeatedly appear throughout the book are the phrases “so it goes” and “blue and ivory.” Vonnegut uses motifs in order to show how the war alters people’s view of death. The phrase “so it goes” is the most commonly used phrase in Vonnegut’s novel. The phrase appears every time there is mention of death. The phrase “blue and ivory” is used many times when Vonnegut is writing about a corpse or Billy’s bare feet. One instance where the phrase “so it goes” and “blue and ivory” can be found is when Billy comes across a dead hobo that he had met while he was stuck in a train car as a prisoner of war. Vonnegut describes the hobo by saying, “Somebody had taken his boots. His bare feet were blue and ivory. It was alright somehow, his being dead. So it goes”. The phrase “so it goes” is used in this quotation exactly the same way it is used all the other times it appears in the novel. Vonnegut uses the phrase in a sort of casual, nonchalant way. “So it goes” is used as a phrase that means that something doesn’t matter, or that is just how it is and there is no changing the situation. Vonnegut incorporates this casual phrase to demonstrate to the readers that war gives people this mentality. This mentality is shown in Billy when he says “It was alright somehow, his being dead. So it goes”.
In war, death is so common that it becomes casual and predictable. The war desensitizes people to see needless killing as a normal occurrence. The phrase “blue and ivory” is describing the feet of the hobo. When people think about a corpse the image is usually a person with pale bluish skin. Vonnegut uses this motif as imagery to give the reader dark images of death. But Vonnegut also uses the phrase when describing Billy’s feet, who is very much alive. On the wedding night of Billy’s daughter, Billy gets out of bed because he cannot sleep. When Billy gets up, he looks down at his feet, “they were ivory and blue”. Vonnegut uses this phrase to describe the living and the dead because he is trying to make a point that in war there is no difference between the living and the dead. War causes people to believe that life and death are equally the same. Vonnegut is trying not to distinguish between the living and the dead because it is all the same thing in war. Vonnegut uses the motif “poo-tee-weet?” to show how war is so traumatizing and horrific that it cannot be put into words. The phrase “poo-tee-weet?” a few times throughout the book. In the first chapter, Vonnegut tells the readers that he was unable to write about his experiences in Dresden clearly. He writes about the Dresden massacre saying, “It is so short and jumbled and jangled, … because there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre, and it always is, except for the birds. And what do the birds say? All there is to say about a massacre, things like ‘poo-tee-weet?’”.
Something like the Dresden massacre cannot be put into words because it is so traumatizing. Vonnegut says that the massacre is “Short and jumbled and jangled,” similar to the novel’s sporadic time travel, wacky characters, and the Tralfamadorians. The phrase “poo-tee-weet?” clearly shows the confusion and shock that people feel after a massacre. Even the birds don’t understand. The birds are asking a question rather than making a statement because they also do not understand the massacre.
Vonnegut creates the Tralfamadorians and their interesting perspective of humanity to show how Billy copes with his trauma from the war. During random times throughout the book, Billy randomly gets zapped through time and occasionally ends up on Tralfamadore. While Billy is living in the Tralfamadorians’ zoo he learns that “when a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in that particular moment but that same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. From that point on, whenever Billy sees a dead person he just shrugs and moves on. The Tralfamadorians are just a figment of Billy’s imagination, and he is using what he “thinks” the Tralfamadorians said to comfort and help him cope with all of the death he has seen in the war. Vonnegut uses the Tralfamadorians to show how war can desensitize people into believing that life and death are the same, or that someone’s death doesn’t matter. The war traumatizes people so that they have to see death in a way that does not disturb them. Vonnegut begins the last chapter of his novel mentioning the people he knows who have died recently. He says, “Robert Kennedy … was shot two nights ago. He died last night. So it goes. Martin Luther King was shot a month ago. He died too. So it goes. My father died many years ago now … So it goes. He was a sweet man. He was a gun nut too. He left me his guns. They rust”.
Vonnegut implies throughout this novel using repetitive phrases, and in this quotation, that he is repulsed by violence and war; and that it is only destructive and dehumanizing. War makes people lose value in life and consider death casual.
How War Leads to Destruction in Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut
“Peace is a road to happiness and the future. War is a road to destruction and death.” – Debasish Mridha. It is well known the conflict between different nations or states, demolishes your own nation, affecting the development of the economy, takes away the life from innocent individuals. Billy Pilgrim as a soldier in World War II has gone through War and has experienced similar events that have led to affecting his entire life significantly. In this novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut Billy had no answers, he was shaken from this devastating event. In addition, the central topic will be towards and the bombing of Dresden and how “War Leads to Destruction”.
Throughout this book, Billy Pilgrim is shown travelling to the Dresden bombing, back to his birthplace and to the planet Tradlafamdor in an inconsistent order. Firstly, the innocent community and residents of Dresden were harmed in the bombing, Billy stated that Dresden looked like the surface of the moon, “Dresden was like the moon now, nothing but minerals. The stones were hot. Everybody else in the neighbourhood was dead”. This was due to the destruction the allied forces had caused by the bomb and taken many lives of unwanted and guiltless human beings that were not supposed to be taken. In addition, prisoners of war from many lands came together to help with the digging of dead bodies, as quoted “Began the first corpse mine in Dresden”. Billy and other war prisoners helped to clean up the remains of Dresden and more than 25,000 people who died there, Billy observes the sadistic and cruelty of the globe once the city gets bombed. To add more, it was said in the book that the “bodies were liquefied, and the stink was like mustard and roses gas”. This quotation really makes me smell how the actual scene would smell.
Also, Billy encounters the Dresden bombing with acknowledgment and unhappiness instead of aggression, pain. Never in this novel was Billy seen to be in pain or aggressive with anything. Also, “135,000 people died as the result of an air attack with conventional weapons.” If Hundreds of thousands of faultless people died, imagine how many people got injured during this horrific event, just like Billy and how it is a significant event that has impacted his life ever since. However, This connects to the theme “War Leads to Destruction” because Dresden was left demolished, many faultless individuals lost their lives and left the city was left unavailable to recover affecting deep into their economy. One of the book’s most popular lines is ‘So it goes,’ stated whenever a biotic thing died. It makes him able to forgive anyone, and he never appears to become angry throughout the novel and proves himself as acceptive and deeply passive. The quotation “So it goes,” was stated by Tralfamadorians whenever they saw a corpse, they were described as “they were two feet high, and green, and shaped like plumber’s friends”. To them, death is simply a foul condition at a specific moment in one’s existence. Billy Pilgrim currently views death in identical means, I think this is because Billy learned from them when the aliens took him to Tralfamador to exhibit him in a zoo. “I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is ‘So it goes’”. This quotation proves that Billy has learnt “So it goes” from the Tralfamadorians. This statement was mostly on every other page, popped up a lot. This proves that there were a lot of killings, and destruction moments which clearly links to the thesis “War leads to Destruction”. The destruction has left a deep cut in Billy’s head. “Father, Father, Father- said Barbara, What are we going to do with you? Are you going to force us to put you where your mother is?”. Billy’s own daughter Barabara was tired of his craziness, everyone was. So she was warning him to be put where his mother was, in an old people’s home called Pine Knoll. Barabara even states that her father Billy is crazy about his stuff, “It’s all just crazy”. “He has seen his birth and death many times, he says and pays random visits to all the events in between.” When the world is quite enough for birds to be heard, Billy knows that the war is over, and peace has returned. That is when he hears a bird “One bird said to Billy Pilgrim, ‘Poo-tee-weet?’”.
Once again everything is quite enough for birds to be heard, as quoted on page 19 in chapter one, “It is so short and jumbled and jangled, Sam, because there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre. Everybody is supposed to be dead, never say anything or want anything ever again. Everything is supposed to be very quiet after a massacre, and it always is, except for the birds. And what do the birds say? All there is to say about a massacre, things like “Poo-tee-weet?”. To add more, the author had foreshadowed how the book was going to end when Billy quoted “It ends like this: Poo-tee weet?”. This quotation explains how at the ends of every massacre, you are able to hear the sound of birds tweaking. This ties into the theme “War leads to Destruction” because war has to end someday, and that day is filled with peace and silence To conclude, now without a doubt it is known that “War Leads to Destruction”.
Representation Of Toxic American Masculinity In Slaughterhouse-Five By Kurt Vonnegut
‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ is a science fiction novel written by Kurt Vonnegut. The author of this novel wrote about the bombing in Dresden during the World War II. The author of this novel witnessed as American Prisoner of War and he was able to survive by hiding in slaughterhouse. This novel has two narratives, first narrative specifies the Billy meeting with Roland weary and their capture by the Germans, their transfer to the POW camp and then to Dresden city. In the second narrative of novel, Billy Pilgrim travels through time, from his war experience to young age and from young age to his post-war experience and alien kidnapping. After reading the novel it is possible to analyze the characters of Bertram Copeland Rumfoord, Wild Bob, and Roland Weary as characters which represent the toxic American masculinity.
At the first, Bertram Copeland Rumfoord is a 70 years old Harvard professor. As he is older at age, but he is very energetic from his physical strength. “He had been honeymooning with his fifth wife when he broke his leg. Her name was Lily. Lily was twenty-three”. That phrases from the story clears the strength and masculinity of that man Rumerfoord. He has broken his leg in skiing accident in Vermont at the same time when the Billy has his plane crash. Both of them get injured and they are sharing same room in the hospital. Rumfoord worked on the history of the United States Army Corps in Second World War force and he is remarkably fascinated in investigating the raid in Dresden. When the Rumfoord and Billy are in hospital, Rumfoord cannot believes that Billy was actually there, and he thoughts Billy is just a useless waste of space. He considers the Billy as vegetable who is repeating what he has hears. The most crucial thing about the Rumfoord is that he is kind of superman: a respected Harvard Professor, author and an athletic who cannot deem that anyone could be pitiful as Billy who could have nothing to contribute to the world. At the end, he determines that Billy was possibly at the Dresden; still he had no interest to talk Billy about his experiences. He has mindset that bombing in Dresden was necessary even the Billy has said that was not required and he is repeating his opinion about the bombing repeatedly. He is overly suspicious about the bleeding hearts imitating that the air forces have done wrong thing by causing so many civilian deaths. He wants to celebrate the Dresden Bombing as “a howling success”.
Secondly, Wild Bob is American infantry colonel who loses his entire regiment in the World War II. Wild Bob meets Billy as a prisoner of the war. He is extremely sick, suffering from double pneumonia because of that disease he imagines Billy as member of his regiment and gives him a moving speech. He asked Billy about his outfit by saying “You are from the Four-fifty-First?” and Billy replied “Four-fifty-First what”. When the Billy replied to his question that he belongs to “infantry regiment”, he quoted out tearfully “It’s me boys! It’s Wild Bob!”. That are the words that he always to hear from his troops. This phrases from the novel examines that Wild bob wants to be Good leader and he has good leadership skills. Some of his words becomes refrain repeated in the novel, these words are “’If you’re ever in Cody, Wyoming, just ask for Wild Bob!’ I was there”. Something is terrible about the pointiness of Wild Bob in this novel as he is speaking his dying words to a boy who does not belong to his own regiment. His death in novel resembles that the big issues of the World War II- Nazis, fascism and anti-Semitism that have passed by the certain solders. Eventually, Roland Weary is eighteen years old American Solider and his childhood is unhappy that he has spent mostly in Pittsburgh. He meets Billy in Europe before being captured by the Germans. He is obsessed with becoming a great hero and he also obsesses over violence. When the Billy is in danger, Weary hopes that by saving Billy from danger he could gain his desired heroic status. Roland is mean, dominated with feeling of sufferings and unconfident about his unpopularity throughout his life, “He had been unpopular in Pittsburgh and always being ditched in Pittsburgh by people who did not want with him”. Roland weary is antisocial and bullying solider from his character. When two scouts lose their patience and leaves Billy and Weary behind, he blames Billy for this happening. Even when the Germans comes to them, Weary has pointed out his gun on the Billy. These traits in the novel shows the cruelness and meanness of his character. The Germans themselves are confused about that how one American ha pointed out his gun on other American in German Territory. Since his childhood, he has crazy, sexy and murderous relationship with the people and people usually beats him for his nature. Roland weary seems the war as an adventure and becomes happy because he did not want to alone anymore. Roland is forced to give his boots to the Nazi solider that he has wear for the war and makeshift clogs are given in return. That clogs cut his feet and he get gangrene (infection) and eventually he dies because of this infection. Before his death he asks someone kills to Billy because he blames for his situation, while Billy pitiful for his situation and feels sorry for him. Roland weary cruelness, dumbness and nastiness has shown clearly in the novel.
In conclusion, the characters of the novel Slaughterhouse-five, Bertram Copeland Rumfoord, Wild Bob, and Roland Weary has well represented the toxic American Masculinity. The character Copeland is older at age still more energetic and have young girlfriend, Bob wants to be good leader among his troops and Weary is so cruel, mean and wants heroism. The novel suspects the readers to figure out whatever is truth and what’s is science fiction that makes this writing more attentive to them.
Literary Analysis of Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut
In Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut explains his own encounters as prisoner of war from the Germans. The novel illustrates Vonnegut’s efforts to adjust with his individual war encounters. For instance, like Vonnegut, the protagonist Billy Pilgrim, is taken hostage by the Germans and shipped to Dresden, where he witnesses the demolition of the city by the American firebombers.
Slaughterhouse-Five, is written mainly from the point of view of the protagonist Billy Pilgrim, and is introduced through the omniscient narration of the author. The novel’s structure is nonlinear and is frequently exchanges between different time periods. Although the author attempted a linear narrative, Vonnegut believed the only sufficient way to narrate the story was to shift around through different time periods. In the novel Slaughterhouse-Five the author, Kurt Vonnegut, touches on many themes, such as the destruction of war, the unhappiness of alienation, and the question of free will, within the novel’s unique structure.
Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five, deals with numerous different messages, but most of all, it’s a novel about the catastrophe of war. The author believes that war is not a mission for glory, but is a disaster, and anyone who seeks glory in war is a fool. Despite the fact that World War II is considered by most as a justified conflict that defeated Nazi Germany, Vonnegut views the hardships from victims on all sides. For example, the author describes an “American soldier executed by the Germans for looting to the 135,000 German civilians killed in the Dresden firebombing”. This conveys how the writer isn’t biased, and realizes how war has an effect on everyone involved. The terrors of war are so dramatic and traumatizing that “Vonnegut doubts his ability to write about them”. Within the first chapter of the novel, Vonnegut mentions that Slaughterhouse-Five is “so short and jumbled and jangled, because there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre”. The only answer to the destruction of war, is a deep isolation and withdraw from others. Alienation may be interpreted as, being incapable of socializing with other individuals and with society. In that case, Billy is an extremely isolated individual. Billy Pilgrim is unable to bond with other individuals, because Billy is living from one minute of his life to another. Instead of living life day to day. This prevents Billy from constructing the constant set of exposure with others, which would have aided him into forming relationships with other individuals. The protagonist is a very alienated individual because of the horrific experiences during his imprisonment by the Germans. Although the protagonist position is accurate in a way of being a fictional time machine, however, Billy is legitimately passing through different time periods. This is also an example of a metaphor in that being isolated and alienated comes from the effects of war. The catastrophe of war is a major key source on why Billy Pilgrim is so isolated from society.
Possibly the closest friendship the protagonist has in Slaughterhouse-Five is with Kilgore Trout. Mr. Trout is an isolated individual as well, and wrote novels about people experiencing time travel. Which led Billy to relate his problems with him. Kurt Vonnegut introduces the idea of free will through the Tralfamadorians. One of the main important messages of Slaughterhouse-Five is the mention of free will. This idea is expressed from the traditions of the Tralfamadorians, for them “time is not a linear progression of events, but a constant condition”. The Tralfamadorians have a feeling that all periods of time have already happened. The author describes that “All beings exist in each moment of time like bugs in amber” a statement that not a thing can change. The Tralfamadorians can exchange from different time periods, like the protagonist. The Tralfamadorians don’t believe death is very meaning or impactful. They believe that when someone dies, they’re alive in the past since they can travel back in time. The Tralfamadorians answer to someone’s passing is “so it goes” which is “a phrase Vonnegut writes at every point in the novel where death is mentioned”. The aliens recommend that the protagonist should “concentrate on the happy moments of life, and to ignore the unhappy ones”. The Tralfamadorians advise Billy this because they believe that you cannot change the time. That Billy should accept his fate, and that he is defenseless to change it.
One of the most distinguished concepts about Slaughterhouse-Five is its unusual structure. Slaughterhouse-Five’s main character, Billy Pilgrim, has experienced a major airplane accident, and is “unstuck in time”. At any moment during his life, Billy travels through different time periods of his life. That Slaughterhouse-Five, is a “masterpiece of storytelling technique, a blend of first person and limited-omniscient narratives in which the author easily manipulates four levels of time and full of characters at once”. Vonnegut, as both the storyteller, and author is able to describe his own opinions and reflections through the structure of the novel. He writes about his own experiences when “he relates the saga of an American soldier captured during the Battle of the Bulge, and the imprisoned by the Germans in Dresden”. The unusual structure is represented through the protagonist alienating himself from society. Billy Pilgrim’s experiences of war are mostly told in a chronological order. However these experiences are constantly being broken by the protagonist traveling to different moment of his life. In this case, the structure features the similarity of Billy Pilgrim’s prisoner experiences to his life, and the deep isolation the protagonist feels after Dresden.
Slaughterhouse-Five relates to many different themes. With the destruction of war, Vonnegut experiences a massacre. The author has witnessed the death of many innocent people. Kurt Vonnegut doesn’t just feel for one side of the war, but for everyone because he realizes that war is a disaster for everyone involved. He believes that war isn’t a mission for fame, but is a disaster for everyone. The author experiences the same exact things Billy Pilgrim had. Kurt Vonnegut was “captured by the Germans in the Battle of Bulge” just like the protagonist did. Kurt Vonnegut describes how Slaughterhouse-Five, is his anti-war novel. To convey that war has a major effect on people. Which would cause people isolate themselves from society. Which is another main message in the novel. The protagonist is a very alienated individual because of the horrific experiences during his imprisonment by the Germans. Which causes Billy Pilgrim to travel to different moments of his life. Traveling in time damages his ability to build relationships with other individuals. The protagonist travels in time to prevent him from remembering the destruction of Dresden. The Tralfamadorians believe that time cannot be changed. The aliens try to persuade Billy to only focus on the good times because there is nothing to do about the bad ones. Kurt Vonnegut describes how there is no such thing as free will. That all periods of time have already happened, and that your fate is destined. All of these messages are all tied into the novel’s unique structure. The experiences of the war are told in a chronological order, however, these experiences are constantly being interrupted by Billy traveling through different parts of his life. The first chapter of the novel is told by the author. He expresses how he came up with the idea of writing this anti-war novel. Although the rest of the novel is told by Billy Pilgrim. Through this, Vonnegut writes his own opinions and ideas through the structure of the novel. Traveling through different moments in the structure has caused Billy to not have built relationships with others. This has caused him to feel isolated and neglected from society.
The novel Slaughterhouse-Five, covers many different themes. However, the main ones are the catastrophe of war, the sadness of being isolated, and realization of no free will, which all ties into the novel’s unique structure.