Critical Essay of Slaughterhouse Five

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Slaughterhouse Five
Kurt Vonnegut
Critics of Kurt Vonnegut's are unable to agree on what the main theme of his novel Slaughterhouse Five may be. Although Vonnegut's novels are satirical, ironical, and extremely wise, they have almost no plot structure, so it is hard to find a constant theme. From the many people that the main character Billy Pilgrim meets, and the places that he takes us, readers are able to discern that Vonnegut is trying to send the message that there will always be death, there will always be war, and humans have no control over their own lives.

Most of the book is the narrative from Billy Pilgrim a unique character who has the ability to become "unstuck in time", which means that he can uncontrollably drift from one part of his life to another "and the trips aren't nessicarilly fun". The whole books is organized in the same way Billy moves in time. In consists of numerous sections and paragraphs strung together in no chronological order, seemingly at random. The whole narration is written in the past tense, so that the reader cannot identify where the author's starting point is. This aspect of the book is almost identical with the Tralfamadorian type of book:

"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."

I agree with Mark Vit when he says that the most often expressed theme of the book is that we, as people, are "bugs in amber". The phrase first appears when Billy is kidnapped by the Tralfamacorian flying saucer:

"Welcome aboard, Mr. Pilgrim." said the loudspeaker. ‘Any questions,?'
Billy licked his lips, thought a while, inquired at least: ‘Why me?'
That is a very Earthling question to ask, Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber?'
‘Yes.' Billy, in fact, had a paperweight in his office which was a blob of polished amber with three lady bugs embedded in it.
‘Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why.'

Vit interprets the passage as humans being physically stuck in this world, that we don't have any choice over what we, mankind as a whole, do and what we head for. The only thing we can do is think about everything, but we won't affect anything. This idea appears many times throughout the novel. This is one of the examples, when Billy proposes marriage to Valencia:

Billy didn't want to marry ugly Valencia. She was one of the symptoms of his disease. He knew he was going crazy when he heard himself proposing marriage to her, when he begged her so take the diamond ring and be his companion for life.

This excerpt directly shows that Billy didn't like Valencia very much and that he actually didn't want to marry her. However, he was "stuck in amber". Or, for example, Billy knew the exact time when he would be killed, yet didn't' try to do anything about it. He couldn't have changed it anyway.

Wayne Thompson thinks that Slaughterhouse Five was to show meaning in the absurd. The events in Dresden really are really only the outer layer, hiding a deeper meaning. In the books first chapter, Vonnegut shares a conversation that happened when he informed a friend that he was writing a book about the war:

"Is it an antiwar book?"
"Yes" I said. "I guess"
"You know what i say to people when I hear that they are writing an anti-war book?...I say ‘why don't you write an anti glacier book instead?'"
What he meant was that there would always be wars, that they were as easy to stop as glaciers...and that even if wars didn't keep coming like glaciers, there would still be plain old...
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