Slaughterhouse-Five PR

Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, is a remarkable work of literature that diverges from the other novels we’ve encountered in DP2, particularly the Awakening by Kate Chopin and The Color Purple by Alice Walker. While all three novels offer distinctive insights into the human experience, they differ significantly in terms of narrative approach and  structural composition.

The novel’s main theme—the senselessness of war—is reflected in Vonnegut’s narrative style. Billy Pilgrim, the main character, experiences time as an unchanging, continuous reality through his deft use of time travel and the Tralfamadorian worldview summed up by the slogan “so it goes.” In this “4D” world everything that has happened, will happen and is happening all occurs at the same time. By skillfully contrasting the tragedies of war with the silliness of life itself, this narrative method creates a strange sensation of detachment that is simultaneously tragic and hilarious. The Awakening and The Colour Purple, in stark contrast, follow conventional “linear” tales that follow the individuals’ individual travels and challenges.

Furthermore, Vonnegut skillfully incorporates his personal experiences as a World War II soldier into a fictitious story in Slaughterhouse-Five. In the narrative, the author himself breaks the fourth wall and provides insights into the creative process. This component enhances the story by blending the lines between fact and fiction and encouraging viewers to question the narrator’s credibility. On the other hand, the narrators in The Awakening and The Colour Purple, Edna Pontellier and Celie, respectively, narrate their stories in a more direct and personal manner, giving their own descriptions of their experiences.

There are several possible explanations to the bizarre expositions in the text. I am of course referring to the Tralfamadorians and their idea of a 4D world. They way I manage to make sense of the book – if you can even make sense of it – is thorough the idea that main character of Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy Pilgrim, suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of his horrific experiences during World War II. Flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive memories, avoidance, emotional numbness, and skewed beliefs are a few of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), this is very similar to the stories we are told by the narrator about billy pilgrim.

Talking about the narrative technique, the novel reflects Billy’s PTSD by using that non-linear structure that jumps from one time period to another without any logical order. The novel also mixes reality and fantasy, making it hard to distinguish between what is real and what is imagined by Billy. These imaginary aspects are formed by the possible PTSD. The novel challenges the conventional notions of causality, free will, and morality that are often associated with war stories. The novel suggests that war is senseless, random, and inevitable, and that human beings have no control over their fate.

The affect of this narrative technique on the readers is the sensation that we too have something similar to PTSD. With all the jumbled paragraphs and random timeline we find ourselves questioning our own sanity.




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