Due: September 27
Novel Essay #2: Slaughterhouse-Five
In the novel
by Kurt Vonnegut, we follow a character Billy Pilgrim
through his adventurous life both on Earth and on the Alien world of the Tralfamadorians.
story, we are taken through World War II where Billy is a private in the American army and a
survivor of the tragic firebombing of the German town of Dresden.
This experience of war and
death has an appalling affect on Billy and we are shown how he must create this separate alien
world and the idea of time travel to find some way to justify death so that he may somewhat cope
with his experiences.
Billy suffers from a debilitating form of PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder, and does all he can to distance himself from the trauma in an attempt to rationalize his
To understand Billy we must know how he comes upon these ideas in his creation of the
Tralfamadorians and their views on life.
Three years after the war Billy admits himself to a
veteran’s hospital for nonviolent mental patients, struggling to cope in the world without war.
While in the hospital Billy roomed with an infantry captain, Elliot Rosewater, who was a self
“It was Rosewater who introduced Billy to science fiction, and in particular to
the writings of Kilgore Trout” (Vonnegut).
From Trout’s books we are able to see exactly where
Billy gets his ideas from, reading nearly all of them while in the hospital, and he incorporates
these thoughts and forms his own Tralfamadorian world.
According to the books, theses aliens
pity the humans because we are only able to see in three dimensions, as these creatures can see in
four dimensions, so naturally we had much to learn.
For instance, in this alien world, “when a
person dies he only appears to die”(Vonnegut), the person is still very much alive in other
Based on the Tralfamadorian belief that time is not linear, all moments, although
permanent, can be looked at during any given moment like a form of time travel.
In this way a
person is never truly dead he is just better off in some moments than others.
From the beginning of the book, Vonnegut, introduces death as a central theme looked at
through the eyes of Billy who has seen such an immense amount that he has become somewhat
immune to it.
In the novel every time someone dies, or the death of someone is mentioned the
words “so it goes” follow the thought, because this is what the Tralfamadorians say being that
death is not permanent.
This motif also helps develop the characters view on death by equalizing
all death no matter the severity of it or the victim.
It also refers to Billy’s belief that even though
the person is now dead in this moment and the moments that follow, according to the
Tralfamadorians, the person is still living in all other moments of their lives which they can visit
at any time.
Also these moments that involve death cannot be changed, because the moments in