Sunteți pe pagina 1din 4

ENG-216 Literary Analysis Essay #2 Topic #3 Slaughterhouse Five Themes of Slaughterhouse-Five Vonneguts frank descriptions and matter-of-fact writing

style belie the depth of Slaughterhouse-Five. He uses repeated phrases, verbal rhythm, and repeating narrative structures to affect the reader more than his subdued tone would cause us to expect. Vonneguts detached observations and descriptions ridicule the absurd nature of the behavior of the people in the book and of our own commonly held beliefs. The themes the story is centered on are gently, but continuously poked into our consciousness through gradually explained ideas, by directly associating disparate situations, and by the repeated use of symbols, phrases and descriptions. The unconventional format of Slaughterhouse-Five is a symbol in itself. It is an analogy to his inability and the inability of the novel as a medium to properly express his experiences or say anything intelligent about them. Vonnegut mocks the structure of novels by writing the first chapter as himself, rather than including these thoughts in a preface or foreword, before the fictional story began. In the first chapter he summarizes the entire book without much fanfare and even tells us the first and last lines of the story. The structure of the novel is jumbled and jangled(12) jumping from one time to another at random. Vonnegut breaks the fourth wall by inserting himself into the fictional story, while he himself is the narrator. The way he tells the story is like the way Billy tries to deal with his own experiences. The novel is something like a Tralfamadorian novel, a clump of-symbols read all at once, not one after the other(48). Their explanation is a fitting description of Slaughterhouse-Five:

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.(48) The almost clinical descriptions that Vonnegut uses are symbolic of his inability to understand his experiences and are echoed in the character of Billy Pilgrim who walks through his life impartial to almost everything. Billy rarely shows emotion, He never got mad at anything. He was wonderful that way (48). Some of the descriptions sound like the descriptions the Tralfamadorians give about life on earth who also have trouble understanding the way earthlings act. In this way Vonnegut wrote an anti-war book without specifically denouncing war. He just describes some of the horrible things that occurred and lets us draw our own conclusions. He does something similar when he explains the philosophy that Billy and the Tralfamadorians share. Their fatalistic idea that we are just bugs trapped in amber(42) is like his own refrain when he relates someones death, so it goes(5), and what the birds say in response to a massacre, Poo-tee-weet?(13). It seems to indicate acceptance that we are powerless to do anything about our world. The Tralfamadorian concept of time as fixed and free will as non-existent and Billys framed prayer, GOD GRANT ME THE SERENITY TO ACCEPT THE THINGS I CANNOT CHANGE (34) say that it is impossible to prevent bad things from happening, so it doesnt make sense to fight them. They believe we should Ignore the awful times, and concentrate on the good ones(65). It almost seems as if Vonnegut is suggesting resigned acceptance and disaffection in the face of

atrocity. Here again Vonnegut lets us draw our own conclusions, showing us Billy Pilgrim and allowing us to decide if we should live the same way. Its my belief that the novel is a denouncement of senseless death. Like those who died in the war and the deaths of Billys father, wife, father-in-law, and Billys own death, Vonnegut laments the senseless deaths of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King: Robert Kennedy, whose summer home is eight miles from the home I live in all year round, 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. And every day my Government gives me a count of corpses created by military science in Vietnam. So it goes.(115) Vonnegut repeats the phrase, so it goes(5) to express sorrow, loss, anger, and frustration at the tragedy of senseless death, but lacks any other way to relate it.

Works Cited
Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five. New York: Dell Publishing, 1991.