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.




So it goes


Unlike Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple”, I thoroughly enjoyed my read of “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut, as its genre extends into the domain of science fiction and war, which are some of my favorites book genres. Its scientific aspects includes the theme of time travel which is constantly seen throughout the book. I appreciated the new depiction of time travel, as I am constantly exposed to the oversaturated representation of time travel, done through the usage of an intricate machine, where the characters literally go through time and retain all their former physical and mental attributes. Whereas Vonnegut’s interpretation of time travel was done by having his characters fall asleep, or have his mind wander off to another time of his life. This creates an uncertainty of the character’s mental state in the reader’s mind, which drastically boosts the books nuances and makes it more interesting.

The Color Purple utilizes a linear progression and narration of the story, which is being accounted by the two main characters through the form of letters.  It wields the epistolary method of recounting a story. This creates an intimate and open relationship between the reader and Celie (main character), who progresses a lot through the advent of challenges. Moreover, this technique reinforces the theme of self-expression and vulnerability, as Celie expresses her voice through her letters.

The Awakening also employs the usage of linear story progression, however, its narration is done from an unknown 3rd party which is omniscient. This provides an even closer look on the life of Edna (main character) , and her struggle for self- discovery. Allowing the readers to constantly engage with the characters that engage with Edna , and also follow all their developments . In addition, this narration style enables readers to empathize with Edna’s emotional journey and social constraints .

Without the usage of these factors the readers would not be able to follow the lives of the characters closely, and emotionally invest in any of the events being experienced by them either. Which Slaughterhouse-Five employs as its narration technique. Vonnegut opposes the traditional techniques used by “The Color Purple” and “The Awakening”, which allows readers to be effectively immersed in Vonnegut’s world of chaos and its nonsensical nature. “So it goes”, Vonnegut uses this  phrase multiple times throughout the book, which reflects the desolate and dire nature of war, and shows a good representation of Nihilism through Billy’s character. All of these little features make the overall narrative technique employed which effectively served to disorient and confuse the readers, and add to the overwhelming negative outlook of war.



So it goes

Slaughterhouse-Five written by Kurt Vonnegut is a novel that left a profound impact on me, primarily because of its unique narrative technique and the differences it presents when compared to the other novels we’ve read so far, “The Awakening” and “The Color Purple.”

Vonnegut’s narrative approach in Slaughterhouse-Five is unconventional. He blends science fiction, satire, and memoir, that creates a narrative structure that is fragmented. The story unfolds in a seemingly random manner, jumping back and forth in time and space. This approach mirrors the protagonist Billy Pilgrim’s experience of becoming “unstuck in time,” and it forces the reader to confront the chaotic and absurd nature of war and the human condition. This narrative style allows Vonnegut to comment on war and the traumatic effects it has on individuals.

In contrast to The Awakening by Kate Chopin and The Color Purple by Alice Walker, where the narrative is more linear and traditional, Slaughterhouse-Five changes our expectations of how a story should be told. Edna Pontellier’s journey to self-discovery in The Awakening is presented in a chronological and thoughtful manner, while Celie’s transformation in The Color Purple is conveyed through a series of letters, making it intimate and personal. These novels provide a more straightforward path for readers to follow and engage with the characters’ emotional development.

So it goes (p.15)

This phrase is repeated throughout the novel each time there is a mention of death, no matter how significant or insignificant. It serves as a commentary on the inevitability and indifference of death and the senselessness of war.

“So it goes” projects the novel’s central themes of fatalism, the absurdity of life, and the nature of time. In the face of death and destruction, there is a certain resignation and acceptance of the way things are, as if to say that death is an inescapable part of the human experience. This phrase has a profound, almost haunting quality, emphasizing the sense of futility and helplessness in the face of the chaos of war and life’s unpredictability. It reminds us of the book’s anti-war message and the need to reflect on the senseless violence that humans often perpetrate on one another.

Evif-Esuohrethguals – Lanosrep Esnopser

Prior to the introduction of, Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, we were given an introduction through a handout, introducing the characters and the theme of the book. The introduction helps us ease into a mindset to explore the topic that the book addresses. The primary theme is the destructiveness of war, and its impact on individuals, as well as the illusion of free will(20th century).

In Chapter 1, we are given a summary-like style. As the timeline jumps around in no chronological order, it was initially difficult to follow along. In Chapter 2, a sense of familiarity begins as we are given a clearer image of the fabricated world as we follow Billy Pilgrim into the war zone of 1944. During this, Pilgrim begins time-traveling through multiple future and past events. As Pilgrim time travels and recounts his experiences with the Tralfamadorians, his daughter, Barbara Pilgrim calls him “insane.” The non-linear structure first confused me as it challenged my conventional expectations of how a story progresses. However, I found myself being more interactive with the story as I attempted to construct a chronological timeline using the bits and pieces each chapter provides. Additionally, I found myself relating to Pilgrim as I too was tied down from past experiences at one point, similar to how the chaotic timeline of the story reflects how Pilgrim is unable to escape his traumatic experiences such as witnessing the bombing of Dresden. The chaotic timeline also makes the story seem to never make progress and end.

Not only was the narrative style of Slaughterhouse-Five different, but the content was significantly different when compared to the previous novels I had read with the class, which had a more conventional chronological structure. Both The Awakening and The Color Purple, explore the societal expectations and gender roles around the 20th century of people, specifically women. Despite Slaughterhouse-Five having a significantly different theme, it still connects to the societal expectations of man during global conflicts. The more traditional narrative style of the two novels provides a clear and coherent explanation, while the non-linear structure of Slaughterhouse-Five requires is to actively engage with the story. Although I found my experiences relating to Pilgrim, I often found myself having more difficulties in truly empathizing with him and found myself often detached as I was unable to create a clear world with the characters of the story.

Overall, I found myself being unable to determine if I liked the book. The unique structure certainly provides an interesting aspect to understand the story. However, I often found myself being confused as scenes are often briefly mentioned with little information regarding the world, thus, making me feel detached from the story. So it goes.

Ivan’s Personal Response – Slaughterhouse Five

Slaughterhouse-Five is written by Kurt Vonnegut, a former WWII veteran fighting in Germany. The novel provides a realistic account of the experiences of an American POV (Prisoner of War) and the devastation of the destruction in the famous German city – Dresden. 

One of the most striking aspects of the novel is its unconventional narrative structure. Vonnegut’s use of time travel and the idea that all moments happen in time tend to exist simultaneously challenge the way we all think and understand storytelling traditionally. This non-linear narrative mirrors Billy becoming “unstuck in time”, which makes me question the way we perceive events. Moments in life are similarly quite complex and do not necessarily happen in a neat and linear progression, much like the way we remember, anticipate, and live through our own lives.

Beyond its narrative innovation, “Slaughterhouse-Five” also serves as a powerful anti-war statement. The author himself fought in WWII, and his portrayal of the firebombing of Dresden is thought-provoking. This book suggests the absurdity of war and the devastating impact on everyone within it. The phrase “So it goes” appears multiple times throughout the novel, just like a reminder that we cannot do anything to stop deaths, and how powerless the people are inside wars, and even becoming numb to life and death.

In relation to two books we read before, “The Awakening” and “The Color Purple”, these three books are innovative, often challenging our conventional thoughts and ideas but also remind us of some of the valuable personality and ways to think in life. The book “The Awakening” is about self-discovery and liberation. The awakening of the protagonist to her desires signifies a woman’s right to have control over her own body and identity, which is the main tenet of feminism.  “The Color Purple” on the other hand, explains the importance of resilience, redemption, and what is love. Breaking the silence surrounding domestic and sexual abuse, the book explores the situation of black women during that period and challenges the conventional thoughts at the time.


PR to Slaughterhouse five

The book was written by American humorist Kurt Vonnegut in 1969. 


The narrative technique of Slaughterhouse-Five is non-linear, which means that the timeline of the story frequently jumps back and forth in time rather than being told in a chronological order. It is also a combination of third-person and first-person narration.

The story is broken into many sections and told from the characters perspective, Billy Pilgrim who becomes “unstuck in time” and as if tells or remembers the events from his memories through sections. Billy Pilgrim, a traumatized kid and later soldier who fought in WW2.


This sci-fi and fantasy story creates a dreamlike atmosphere in the book, the narrative technique that wants us to mess with the perception of time, which compared to the other novels we read earlier in clas, the The Awakening and The Colour Purple which are told in a chronological and structural way; filled with elements of bitter reality that some may unfortunately relate to and therefore drowns us in the reality of the scenario and pin points us to a specific timeframe. These two novels as readers set us in a harsh-reality, as if making us survive with the main character, keeping us on our toes, yet the Tralfamadorians moral of life in  Slaughterhouse 5 suggests us to forget about the sense of time for a moment and look at life as is. 

“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 marvellous moments seen all at one time” (p.88).

And  “one thing earthlings might learn to do if they tried hard enough is ignore all the awful times and focus on the good ones” p.117

And this felt freeing to be honest. For the first time I felt like I had one less of a responsibility to keep track of something “so insignificant” like the aliens say, time. 


The sense of freedom leads me to my next point, religion.   


Billy does not follow any religion, unlike Celie in the Color Purple, where the book starts with the line “Dear God..”

“Billy wasn’t catholic, yet had a gory crucifix hanging in his room as a child. His father had no religion..” p.38

But we see him later form a prayer on his office wall which expressed his method for keeping going even though he was unenthusiastic about living:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change courage to change the things I can and wisdom always to tell the difference” p.60

God was Celie’s outlet, her companion and friend ever since she was little and taught to only tell God about the darkest secrets while Billy never told anyone about his struggles, never spoke about his pain. This made me think about how many men still refuse or are too scared to be vulnerable and tend to keep it all inside themselves for years. The “a man is supposed to be tough” really speaks out to me as I see close relatives of mine whom I never saw cry and probably never will.  We see the earlier traumatic event of Billy’s life when his father taught him how to swim by throwing him in water, causing the poor boy to develop severe anxiety while standing near water like the canyon. And yet this is described as a memory, where even “in Billy’s head” he doesn’t address the situation and never vents,

Celie begins to write to her sister Nettie at one point, when she overthinks her concept of religion. Why is God a man with a white beard in her eyes, why does she feel the need to write to him? And with the help of her lover Shug she is able to obtain those answers. Celie only has one life, and she is not about to waste another year keeping quiet. I found that when Billy learns to put aside the concept of time after his encounter with the aliens, it is as if he also finds the answer, or at least, some comfort in his being now. Travelling back and forth in time as he knows that

“I, Billy Pilgrim, will die, have died, and always will die on February 13, 1976” p141 which he records on a tape and leaves it locked up with some other valuables. 

As I continue my journey in life, I find that both approaches suit me; Celie’s determination to live her best life without wasting it on anyone other than her own wellbeing and Billie’s tranquility, as we know that all things come to an end one day. 


“So it goes” the famous line Billy says throughout the book, and interestingly enough, the Tralfamadorians use it too. Usually, when a person passes or an unpleasant event occurs that makes us have this uneasy feeling, a pit in our stomach as we wonder how to react to this new information, waiting to see if Billy will react in any way, but his answer to it is a simple “so it goes”. This leaves us room and a sense of independence over our own feelings and how we should react to things like misfortune and even death, which is described many times in Slaughterhouse 5.

Slaughterhouse Five PR

Slaughterhouse Five is a novel written by Kurt Vonnegut in 1969, 24 years after the end of the Second World War. Vonnegut was serving the US army from 1943 to 1945, who survived the aerial bombing of Dresden. Slaughterhouse Five is a classic pacifistic novel. Apart from realistic events that are narrated by the narrator, Vonnegut, the novel also consists of fictional  components including the Tralfamadorian – extraterrestrial creatures and time-traveling, which intrigue readers to continue reading. Vonnegut utilizes a highly satirical tone throughout Slaughterhouse Five to visualize the main themes including fate and the sense of antiwar. Although Billy Pilgrim – the main character is threatened to death by different characters, he survives the war but is killed by a laser gun. 

“Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.” (p.23) 

The word “unstuck” literally means no longer stuck, Billy is no longer stuck in normal timeline, normal time progression, instead, he is skipping time from one moment to another. I believe that human brains recall the important life events before they die. Therefore, to me, Billy’s time-traveling is as the recall of memory before he dies. 

Comparing the narrative techniques used in The Awakening and Slaughterhouse Five, Chopin and Vonnegut both utilized third person narration to inform the readers the plot. In The Awakening, although Edna is not the narrator of the story, the narrator informs Edna’s experiences and awakening process with an omniscient perspective. The narrator provides readers a thorough insight into Edna’s action, and allows the audience to attempt to interpret Edna’s thoughts and emotions. Vonnegut also utilizes an omniscient, third person narrative in Slaughterhouse Five, which describes the appearance, actions, expressions of Billy, which guides readers to interpret his emotions during reading. The novel begins with “Listen!” (chapter 2, 6), which gathers audience’s attention and inform them the narrator has begin to tell the story. This type of narration elucidates an in depth insight of the main character. 

In the Awakening, Chopin employed linear narration, which follows the timeline of the plot. This increases the tension as the plot progresses. Linear narrative emphasizes the progression of Edna’s self-discovery, leading the reader to focus on Edna’s transformation and awakening. The narration is also character centered, which encourages the audience to focus on the protagonist’s emotion and thoughts, instead of any other characters or the events. Vonnegut uses metafiction, which he is intentionally mentioning reality and the artificialness to blur the boundary between fiction and reality. This technique is revealed a couple times throughout the fiction. First, chapter 1 is named “chapter 1” instead of “preface” to catch the reader’s attention and blends the line between fiction and real historical backgrounds. Vonnegut also becomes involved in the fiction: 

I was there. So was my old war buddy, Bernard V. O’Hare.” (p.67)

“Somebody behind him in the boxcar said, ‘Oz.’ That was I. That was me. The only other city I’d ever seen was Indianapolis, Indiana.” (p.148)

These 2 quotes affirm the audience of the fiction’s reliability so that the audience are more devoted as they read along, also mitigating the doubtness of fictionality. This raises a question: if Billy Pilgrim truly existed in reality, or he is just a fictional character for Vonnegut to express his satirical and opposition thoughts against the war, which is traumatizing and the effect on a human’s mental health condition? 

Slaughterhouse Five is narrated in a non-linear way, which does not follow the normal progression of timeline, yet back and forth to the important events of Billy’s life. This creates a sense of confusion for the audience, reflecting Billy’s confusion of his experience on time-traveling and encounter with Tralfamadorians. Although the progression of Slaughterhouse Five is not according to the timeline, the fragments of Billy’s life connect to another part of his life events. For example, Billy has insomnia during his daughter Barbara’s wedding because the colour of the tent – black and orange reminds him of the trains that transfers him to the POW camp. I particularly admire Vonnegut’s minor but significant connection between events that convey his thoughts on war effectively to readers. 

Contrasting the narrative techniques between The Colour Purple and Slaughterhouse Five, Walker and Vonnegut both utilizes first person narrative, yet there are two narrators in The Colour Purple – Celie, and Nettie. The novel is written in an epistolary form, which is a collection of letters. Since there are two narrators narrating about their lives, the audience gains a better insight into their emotions, experiences and their mindsets. As The Colour Purple progresses, we gain knowledge about Celie’s thought and realization of her ideas. It emphasizes the relationship between Celie and Nettie, which is extremely intimate. The linear narrative allows the audience to focus on the theme of self-discovery and transformation, from desensitizing thoughts and feelings to bravely expressing and advocating ideas through actions. Celie’s illustration of her life – what she writes and narrates from letters shows her evolution, from disorganized paragraphs in non-standard English, to coherent and longer paragraphs that expresses her emotions productively. 

Slaughterhouse Five consists of science fiction components, especially the encounter with Tralfamadorian and experience on Tralfamadore. A significant example of this is the Tralfamadorians thought on the idea of death: 

“The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist.” (p.26-27)

This quote reveals the emotionlessness of Tralfamadorian, who is the extraterrestrial creature of Slaughterhouse Five, especially the idea of crying at funerals is silly. Vonnegut symbolizes war as Tralfamadore, visualizes the absurdity and ruthlessness of war as Tralfamadorian, emphasizes the senselessness of war by incorporating Tralfamadorian. It echoes with chapter 1, when Vonnegut is talking with O’Hare’s wife, who thinks wars are a “children crusade”. (p.15)

“You’ll pretend you were men instead of babies, and you’ll be played in the movies by Frank Sinatra and John Wayne or some of those other glamorous, war-loving, dirty old men. And war will look just wonderful, so we’ll have a lot more of them. And they’ll be fought by babies like the babies upstairs.” (p.14)

Billy is one of the “baby”, who has no control on anything, including being “spastic in time”, which contradicts the idea of “free will”; Tralfamadorians think free will is “simply an illusion since they can see past, present, and future simultaneously so they believe in fate, the idea of everything is planned. The incorporation of Tralfamadorian connects with Billy’s encounter, visualizes the senselessness of war by conveying and promoting their thoughts to Billy, promotes and creates a sense of antiwar to readers, meanwhile raises a question about the theme – does free will exist? 

To conclude, I enjoyed reading Slaughterhouse Five due to its unconventional, non-linear way of narrating that intrigues my curiosity to keep reading and discover Billy’s experiences between fragments of events. I enjoy the sarcasm within Slaughterhouse Five, typically the attitude that Billy acts towards death – “so it goes” even though he survives from scenarios near to death multiple times during and after the war. On the contrary, Celie from The Colour Purple tries her best to stay alive. The contrast of the thoughts of the two main characters produces and accentuate the satirical perception towards Billy. Slaughterhouse Five raises a question: would the world be better if people are more sensitive instead of being senseless?

PR to Slaughterhouse-5

Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughter House-Five”, is by far the most unconventional text we have read during this course. Vonnegut’s unconventional methods and authorial choices, such as his use of dark humour, graphic descriptions of human anatomy, and most notably, his irregular approach to telling a story, in this case, the story of Billy Pilgrim. Vonnegut uses a nonlinear narrative in order to communicate the events of Billy’s life. Vonnegut accomplishes this effect by manipulating both the nature and passing of time in his novel, and proposing a new perspective on time and space, through which the protagonist, Billy, takes an odyssey through. Vonnegut’s non-conforming narrative technique offers us an intimate glance into the character of Billy Pilgrim, and allows us to question the concept of “free will”. Similarly, though through the use of different narrative techniques, Alice walker utilizes an epistolary form in order to present her own artistic creation, who we know as the character Celie in her epistolary novel, “The Colour Purple”. Through the use of an epistolary form, Walker brings the reader and guides them through Celie’s own odyssey through time, and presents a tone towards free will which is in stark contrast to that of Vonnegut’s.

Vonnegut addresses the concept of free will in a more critical light, as can be seen on page 86 of “Slaughter House-5”, “Only on earth is there talk of free will”(p. 86). This of course refers to a conversation between protagonist Billy Pilgrim and one of the time-fluid beings from Tralfamadore, whose inhabitants are known simply as Tralfamadorians. According to the Tralfamadorian perspective, the passage of time occurs in four dimensions, and all moments that will and have happened occur simultaneously. As a result, Tralfamadorians are able to move freely throughout time, as what will happen in the “future” has already been determined. Therefore, the Tralfamadorians argue that “free will” is a foolish concept, as one cannot change what is already bound to happen. By doing so, Vonnegut argues that free will is but a concept, with no real value within the world. However, Alice Walker suggests another perspective on the concept of free will. Her character, Celie, over the course of a twenty-year period, grows and morphs into a courageous and independent woman. However, this is not on behalf of extraterrestrial intervention, but instead the unbroken spirit and resilience displayed by Celie allows herself to create a state of mind that allows her to grow and change into a person she is proud of. By doing so, Walker demonstrates her own tone and perspective on free will, framing it as something that is not only real and profound, but something that can be utilized by the beholder in order to strengthen and better themselves.

To close, I must say that I enjoyed reading the novel “Slaughterhouse-5” by Kurt Vonnegut, even though at times the non-linear narrative technique and irregular passage of time made the book difficult to follow at times. However, the novel still had a profound impact on me as the reader. Vonnegut’s presentation of the absolute absurdity of life, time, and conflict has granted me perspective and insight into how I can approach the finite and passing nature of time. Just as Billy Pilgrim is unstuck in time, forever witnessing each moment of his life, I will attempt to approach time similarly, not in a literal sense of course. By reflecting on my choices and their implications, I will gain insight into my effect on others, and thus how I am perceived and remembered, as how others remember you is the determining factors in your legacy of time spent on earth.

Being Afraid of Death

For me, the most prominent narrative technique of Slaughterhouse-Five was its non-linear timeline. This is reflective of the protagonist Billy Pilgrim’s “unstuck in time” experience, as he becomes “unstuck” in time and experiences events out of sequence. This technique is used to show the concept that time is not linear and can be experienced in a non-sequential manner. This is unlike any book we have read thus far into the year. Whereas The Awakening and The Colour Purple follow a very clear chronological, linear timeline, Slaughterhouse Five often shifts between the past, present, and future, without warning. Events from Billy’s experiences as a soldier during World War II, his post-war life, and his time with the Tralfamadorians are all presented in a jumbled, non-chronological fashion.

“Billy couldn’t be shaking hands with anybody now. He was time-traveling.”

Some events are even revisited multiple times from different perspectives or in different chronological orders. For example, the bombing of Dresden is described at various points in the novel, each time providing new insights and emotional impacts. I found the book a little hard to follow at first as the transitions between different time periods are often abrupt and without any cues or transitions that typically guide readers through a linear storyline. Vonnegut intentionally disrupts the chronological flow of events to emphasize the disorienting and chaotic nature of war and human experience. It reflects the disorientation and trauma experienced by the characters, specifically Billy, during and after the war. It also challenges conventional ideas of time, highlighting the odd and often meaningless nature of life’s events. Thus, this narrative style reinforces the novel’s central themes of free will, the impacts of war, death and offers a unique reader experience.

The thing I found most fascinating about this novel was the Tralfamadorians, and specifically  their perspective on death and time. According to the Tralfamadorians, time is not linear but rather exists as a constant. They perceive all moments in time as coexisting simultaneously. Past, present, and future are all happening at once, and they view the universe as a series of moments that can be experienced in any order.

“So it goes”

The Tralfamadorians use the phrase “So it goes” every time they encounter death, and this phrase is used exactly 106 times throughout the novel. To them, death is just one moment in a person’s existence, and there’s no sense of finality. This repetition emphasizes the inevitability of death. It suggests that death is an inevitable part of life and something that cannot be changed or prevented. Death is something I think about frequently. I stay awake at night thinking about it, thinking if I were to die, how would it happen? Would it be peaceful? What happens after I die? Is there just nothing? For me, the scariest part of dying is the fact that one day there will be absolutely nothing. I will cease to exist, not just my physical body, but my memories I will have gathered over the years, my thoughts and opinions, my morals, my hopes and my fears, everything that makes me who I am will no longer exist. However, In the Tralfamadorian view of time, all moments in a person’s life are permanent. This means that, for the Tralfamadorians, every moment in an individual’s life, including moments after death, exists simultaneously and eternally. As a result, death is seen as just one moment in a person’s continuous existence.

“The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies, he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past.”

I think this is a really interesting and beautiful way of thinking of a persons life, and there is something to be learned from the Tralfamadorians. Tralfamadorians do not dwell on the past or worry about the future. They live in the moment and see no reason to grieve over the deceased. All moments in time are equal, and when a person dies they’re never really gone. I believe the Tralfamadorians and I would have been good friends. One thing I took away from the novel was the importance to live in the moment, and don’t dwell on things you cannot change, such as death.

The Perception of Time

The narrative technique in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five is different to many other books we have read in English class. The technique involves manipulation of the structure and organization to bring focus to the content. This puzzles the reader but also induces them to reflect deeper on the progression of the plot and how it connects with the content in the novel. The questions that occurred to me while reading involve how does the way we perceive time affect how we live? As well as how should we perceive time? We can explore the narrative technique of this book and how it influences the reader by comparing it to novels such as The Color Purple and The Awakening.

The structure and organization of the plot directly correlates with the content of the novel which encourages the reader to think about the concept of time. Vonnegut uses a mixture of truth and fiction presented in a non-linear organization to write this novel. This puzzles the reader because the structure is not the cliche progression taught in schools; conflict, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. Slaughterhouse- Five however, is not this black and white. Events are shared in a non-chronological order and events skip from one to the next without any background information. I found this technique at first to be confusing but later caused me to reflect and connect more deeply with the content of the book.  

As we delved into this book, we learned about the Tralfamadorian way of life. Once this concept was explained I realized how directly this philosophy, and the narrative technique employed by Vonnegut were connected. For example, Tralfamadorian books are structured like:

“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 marvellous moments seen all at one time” (p.88).  

This description instantly clicked with how the organization of SlaughterHouse-Five was presented. Vonnegut utilizes this philosophy in presenting the plot of Billy Pilgrim. He uses the idea that Billy can become “unstuck” in time to travel to the past or future.  The effect of this technique allows the reader to feel as though all the moments in the book are presented simultaneously which connects the plot and the organization of this novel. Now, when presented with this new philosophy of life the reader is no longer puzzled but further intrigued allowing them to think deeper. 

The narrative technique in Slaughterhouse-Five invites the reader to inquire about the perception of time and how this perception of time influences how one lives? By comparing Billy and humanity today this question can be discussed. The best way to describe the difference between the Tralfamadorian philosophy of time and humans’ perception of time is by using the metaphor a Tralfamadorian guide uses to tell his tour about earthlings perception of time:

“The guide invited the crowd to imagine that they were looking across a desert at a mountain range on a day that was twinkling bright and clear. They could look at a peak or a bird or a cloud, at a stone right in front of them, or even down into a canyon behind them. But among them was a poor earthling, and his head was encased in a steel sphere which he could never take off. There was only one eye hole through which he could look, and welded to that eyehole was a six feet pipe” (p.115).  

The idea that humans can only experience or believe that a single moment in time exists affects our beliefs about death and freewill which shapes how we live life. For example, when Billy thinks about death it’s not something that he mourns because he has adapted to this new philosophy: 

“The most important thing that I learned on Tralfamadore is that when a person dies, he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral” (pp.26-27). 

When a person dies the thought process of Billy is “so it goes”. There is no attachment to a person when they are lost and no fear of dying.  This is very different from how humans today perceive death; we tend to be more upset and mourn deeply. We also tend to live in fear of death. In regard to how perception of time can affect how people live; mortality is a less taboo topic for Billy, making him have a more relaxed life and attitude towards death. 

Another area where one’s perception of time can shape is their belief in fate vs freewill. Using the same comparison, Billy believes in fate and adapts the philosophy that there is no such thing as freewill.  Billy believes he cannot change or influence the future because in his mind all moments are happening at the same time. This mindset eliminates the idea of free will as the Tralfamadorians say: 

“Only on earth is there any talk of freewill” (p.86). 

Due to this mindset Billy lives his life in a more peculiar way than anyone would live their life in our society. For example, in the war he is not interested in combat but has a more passive behaviour and attitude. Perception of time can change attitudes toward other time dependent variables such as death and free will thus affecting one’s daily routines. The second question that occurs from this idea is how should we perceive time? There is no right answer to this question but I think humans today can adopt one concept from Tralfamadore which is to make life more enjoyable by: “Ignore the awful times and concentrate on the good ones” (p.117).

In class we have read many books with different narrative techniques.  When comparing Slaughterhouse-Five to other books we have read such as The Color Purple by Alice Walker and The Awakening by Kate Chopin, there are similarities and differences. The main difference between Slaughterhouse-Five and these two books are the structure and organization. Slaughterhouse-Five is organized in a nonlinear format which helps the reader dig deeper into the concept of the book whereas The Color Purple and The Awakening are organized chronologically. The effect of the nonlinear plot as discussed earlier makes the reader reflect more on the directly linked content. Whereas the linear plot allows the characters to show development which, in The Colour Purple and The Awakening, is crucial to the progression of the plot.   

Another difference between Slaughterhouse-Five and The Color Purple is the point of view the book is set in. Alice Walker writes as letters from Celie to God or her sister Nettie. In Vonnegut’s novel the narrator is not Billy, but we can assume Vonnegut himself as he interjects a few times. The effect of the letter format versus a narrator is that the reader gets deeper insight into Celie’s feelings than Billy. Having the insight into Celie’s thoughts that she only meant for God or Nettie means we get to see her raw emotions. This personal level with Celie makes the connection with her and the reader more personal. It is easier for the reader to relate with Celie because of this than Billy. 

A similarity between the narrative techniques in Slaughterhouse-Five and The Awakening is the use of settings.  Both novels use two main settings to help compare and contrast ideas. In Slaughterhouse-Five the two main settings are Tralfamadore and WWII in Germany. Vonnegut’s use of these two drastically different settings reinforces the ideas of this anti-war book. Utilizing two opposite settings,  influences the reader to compare the two settings.The effect this produces is that the reader fully understands Vonnegut’s point of portraying how unnecessary and awful war is. Kate Chopin also uses two opposite settings to further her point of society’s restrictive roles for women. The novel’s main setting is on a Grand Isle which is a beautiful location next to the ocean. This is where Edna felt the freest and the setting helps portray freedom and independence. The other setting is Edna’s house in New Orleans which conveys more of a rigid busy feeling here Edna struggles to find herself. This setting helps mimic society’s restrictions for women. Chopin uses the two settings to reinforce the idea of Edna’s entrapment by society.  

Overall, each book has a variety of narrative techniques but what I really noticed is how each technique is used to direct the reader to reflect on the themes and questions raised by the novel. 



“Slaughterhouse-Five” PR – The Complexity of Time & War

Slaughterhouse-Five is an anti-war novel written by American humorist, Kurt Vonnegut in 1969. This novel explores the complicated nature of time through its unique narrative technique. I particularly enjoy reading this novel due to the infusion of science fiction elements, such as the presence of extraterrestrial creatures (the Tralfamadorians) and time travel. Although the timeline of the book was confusing in the beginning, as the plot progressed, I was able to make connections between each event. Vonnegut indirectly references and displays the cruelty of war through the lens of our protagonist, Billy Pilgrim. Vonnegut raises the public’s awareness of the cruelty of war and provokes a sense of anti-war sentiment through unique narrative techniques: a combination of third and first-person perspectives, collage, and non-linear narrative.

Vonnegut utilizes a combination of third-person and first-person narration. The whole story, except chapter 1, is written primarily in the third-person perspective. Meanwhile, chapter 10 shows a clear combination of both first and third-person narrations. Chapter 1 is written from Vonnegut’s own perspective which briefly describes his struggles after the war and while writing this book. The rest of the chapters are written from Billy’s perspective. But there are multiple times when Vonnegut jumps out in these chapters to make a connection between his experience and Billy’s. This allows Vonengut to inform the readers that this is part of his experience too. However, this narrative technique raises the question, “To what extent does Billy’s experiences parallel, or perhaps, overlap with Vonnegut’s stories?”

“I was there. So was my old war buddy, Bernard V. O’Hare.” (p. 67)

“Somebody behind him in the boxcar said, ‘Oz.’ That was I. That was me. The only other city I’d ever seen was Indianapolis, Indiana.” (p. 148)

The above quotations are evidence that Vonnegut attempts to insert his presence when portraying Billy’s stories during WWII. This illustrates the subtle, intertwined connection between Vonnegut and Billy’s characters. Also, allows us to assume that Billy’s character and experiences might be, to a great extent, based on Vonnegut’s real-life experience.

Vonnegut also utilizes a collage narrative to highlight wars’ traumatizing effects on the psychological aspect of soldiers. This novel is composed of stories that illustrate Billy’s experiences in various stages of life: before the war (childhood and teenage), during the war, and after the war (his marriage life, optometry clinic, and his experience on Tralfamadore). The inclusion of events from various life stages provides profound insights into Billy’s character arc. We can see how war pushes a teenager to achieve maturity in a short period of time. Billy was once experiencing a normal childhood although he appears to be shy. However, after the war, he becomes introverted and has trouble sharing his feelings openly with others.

“Later on, as a middle-aged optometrist, he would weep quietly and privately sometimes, but never make loud boohooing noises.” (p. 197)

When Billy is middle-aged, he is depicted as reluctant to talk about anything related to the war openly to Valencia and Montana Wildhack. However, it is shown that other characters in the novel never bring up topics related to war easily, constructing a sense that people are seemingly avoiding talking about the negative impacts that war has created on soldiers. This narrative highlights the traumatizing effects that war has on soldiers’ psychology.

Moreover, Vonnegut utilizes a non-linear narrative technique to scramble the chronological order of events, thus, constructing a sense of complexity in the story’s timeline. Billy often comes “unstuck in time”.

“Billy blinked in 1958, traveled in time to 1961.” (p.46)

“Then he swings back into life again, all the way back to an hour after his life was threatened by Lazzaro – in 1945.” (p. 143)

The above quotations show Billy often traveling back and forth in his life experiences. Billy’s ability to time travel makes this novel’s timeline extremely complicated. Billy could be in Dresden but in Tralfamadore the next moment. This shows that Billy, or perhaps, Vonnegut has a vague sense in interpreting time. Thus, emphasizing the main idea valued by the Tralfamadorian: all moments are eternal, they appear to be the past or future because we are not living in them at this current moment. This idea could be interpreted as a “coping mechanism” where Billy consoles himself that no one is actually dead, they are just not in good condition at this moment. Billy’s repetitive mention of this Tralfamadorian accentuates the traumatizing effects that war has on soldiers’ psychology.

Comparing the narrative technique in Slaughterhouse-Five to The Awakening, they are both primarily written in the third narration. However, Chopin only offers a third-person perspective when describing Edna Pontellier’s awakening process. There is a limiting perspective when interpreting Edna’s inner thoughts and feelings because their character arc is primarily described from others’ perspectives. This contradicts with Slaughterhouse-Five where Vonnegut often introduces his own perspectives and association with Billy’s experience. Overall, both novels utilize a third-person narrative, but Vonnegut’s novel is more successful in displaying the protagonist’s emotional depth.

Also comparing Slaughterhouse-Five to The Color Purple, they both incorporate first-person narration. This similarity allows both novels to excel in illustrating the emotional depth and inner thoughts of their protagonists. However, Walker only shows Celie’s perspective at the beginning of the novel. This makes the reader oblivious to other characters’ thoughts and feelings. Also, Walker utilizes a linear narrative to showcase Celie’s character arc. This makes her novel’s timeline comparatively easy to interpret but less intriguing compared to the time-traveling and non-linear narrative in Vonnegut’s novel.

I enjoy reading Slaughterhouse-Five and The Awakening more than The Color Purple. All author displays masterful narrative in their novel, it is a personal preference based on the elements incorporated within the novel. To conclude, Slaughterhouse-Five provides unique perspectives for understanding historical events in WWII outside of history textbooks. It successfully raises anti-war sentiment and awareness of soldiers’ mental health by depicting the cruelty of war through a combination of third and first-person perspectives, collage, and non-linear narrative.