Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five: Narrative Method

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Discuss the Narrative method of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five

Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five is a that in no way can be treated as one-dimensional one. It deals with the historical events like the bombing of Dresden, socio-cultural reality of America in the 1960s and the alternative world of Tralfamadorians. Although three different realms are combined, the novel does not present anything that could be perceived as unseen. Its exceptionality comes from a less explored perspective – the novel’s unique narrative structure. It seems obvious that the text could not have been interpreted with the use of traditional interpretational tools therefore Vonnegut introduced a new method of narration. The main focus of the analysis are several devices Vonnegut uses to create his narration. First of all the story has in fact two narrators not one. In this way the reader sees more clearly that he narration technique is in a way turned upside down. The narrator not necessarily loses his traditional role and still influences the way readers perceive the plot but a slight difference can be noticed. What is more, contrary to the potential assumptions of the reader, Slaughterhouse-Five not entirely breaks out with the convention of an anti-war book. The second issue that needs to be looked upon are the stylistic devices use by the author. Those are: the collage technique, the foreshadowing of some of the events and multitude of repetitions. These tools can be traced in every chapter of the novel. Moreover both of them connect different levels in the plot. The third aspect of the novel is Vonnegut’s attempt to explore the subconscious of the protagonist with the use of Tralfamadorian reality. It might be argued whether the author’s intention was to make the reader believe in alternative world or to present the main character as schizophrenic. By the matter of fact such question is legitimate as the topic of schizophrenia can be easily associated with Billy Pilgrim’s travels in time and space. From the first sentence in the novel the reader becomes aware that it is impossible to state whether the story is true or fictitious. "All this happened, more or less." (p. 5) Throughout those words the reader is confronted with is the question of truth. In this way Vonnegut gives the reader a thrill and achieves the effect of reality. On the one hand the reader feels that the story is a fiction on the other however some parts of the story seem to be far too realistic to be artificial. Moreover Vonnegut calls his novel "a failure." (p. 14) With this expression he again brings it into question the truthfulness of the reported facts. The question whether the novel tells a real story or is only a successful mystification is left to the reader to answer by himself. The story begins in chapter II. The author introduces the protagonist named Billy Pilgrim who describes his time travels. As the story unfolds the reader gets more details about the alternative world of the Tralfamadorians. The idea of time traveling as well as the utopian life on another planet is, by the matter of fact, just a renewed and transferred to the modern versions of topics introduced to literature centuries earlier by Thomas More or Jonathan Swift. There is however one aspect, which is worth a particular amount of attention – the way the story is presented. Taking into consideration the fact that it is Billy who describes what happened it is odd that every expression, Billy utters, is commented on with the words "he says". (p. 20) At first sight this may not seem important but it points to the question of truth. Does Billy travel to remote areas, or does he only say so? Vonnegut asks this question every time he repeats those words. Another device used by the narrator is the foreshadowing of important events. As an example one may look at the following expression: "Billy sat down in the waiting room. He...
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