Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut was an incredible, unique work of literature which, through the form used and content work, readers were able to understand the actual reality and absurdity of war and its impacts on individuals, and the content work described by the inclusion of the Tralfamadorians which impacted the life of Billy Pilgrim affecting his relationships acting as a coping mechanism, and gave him an ideology about “free will” that helped him when he was not supported after returning from war.
The form of this literature included a writing technique where the sentences were written in a simplistic form and consisted of short straight, forward sentences that did not sugarcoat the situations that Billy Pilgrim was facing in different periods in his life. This supported the promise Vonnegut made not to describe war as something amazing but instead as the reality of it. “so it goes” was used several times in the story when the characters died instantaneously throughout the story.
In Chapter 3, just before Billy and his team are taken prisoner, they come upon German reserves rushing to the front: “[The Germans] were festooned with machine-gun belts, smoked cigars and guzzled booze. They took wolfish bites from sausages, patted their horny palms with potato-masher grenades”. (Page. 54). This sudden change was right after Billy was in his office working and transitions between each paragraph showed a direct correlation to the horrific and abrupt events in the war. These abrupt transitions from event to event frequently happen throughout the novel. By doing this, Vonnegut created the feeling of constant abrupt action where we got to visualize the war happening through the lens of Billy pilgrim.
The inclusion of the Tralfamadorians at the beginning of the book seemed silly to me. Why did Vonnegut include such childish unreal content with a serious topic? As I continued to read, I realized just how much they arrested. Not only were the Tralfamadorians used as a coping mechanism they showed how the war made Billy feel when he was back home. This included connections with his wife, who he disliked, his rude and disrespectful daughter as well as his teenage son. Throughout the novel, we are taken on a time travel journey and see how at each point in his life, he still feels disconnected from the people after the war because they would never truly understand everything he witnessed and had to go through war. An example of this acceptance established by the Tralfamadorians Included, “Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were the past, the present and the future” (page.60). This ideology shows how much the Tralfamadorians impacted him as an individual and his thinking. An example where there is a lack of connection between Billy and his family members is the interactions between his daughter Barbara and him. At this moment, she was mocking his letters about the Tralfamadorians. She stated, “If you are going to act like a child, maybe we will treat you like a child.” (page. 131) Here we can see the miscommunication between them and how hard it really is for Billy to connect with his family because they don’t understand his experiences and think his thoughts are false and crazy.
Not only did the presence of the Tralfamadorians make this novel more engaging to read. They gave Billy a purpose to keep living and helped him accept all the hardships and traumas he endured throughout the war based on the concept that we don’t have free will and can’t choose the lives we lead; consequently, all these experiences were meant to happen.
In conclusion, Vonnegut effectively formatted this novel to educate readers on war and all its realities and truths while still making it a very interesting story. He did this by being straightforward with the language and contact work included, which showed the horrifying, traumatic experiences Billy Pilgrim encountered and all its effects throughout his life journey.