Saturday, July 09, 2005

Slaughterhouse Five

I just re-read Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, which I believe I first read in eighth or ninth grade. Back then, I wasn't familiar with its reputation as an anti-war book and may have not totally understood the themes; this time I did know the reputation but have still been trying to grapple with the themes. I am taking to reading SparkNotes (so academic of me, I know!) to figure out the significance of the Tralfamadorians, the aliens who main character Billy Pilgrim claims have abducted him, aliens who have a 4th sense that allows them to see all of time, thus their conception of time unlike that of humans is not premised on a chronology of events.

The most interesting thing which I have read in the SparkNotes analysis so far is this:

It seems that Billy may be hallucinating about his experiences with the Tralfamadorians as a way to escape a world destroyed by war—a world that he cannot understand. Furthermore, the Tralfamadorian theory of the fourth dimension seems too convenient a device to be more than just a way for Billy to rationalize all the death with he has seen face-to-face. Billy, then, is a traumatized man who cannot come to terms with the destructiveness of war without invoking a far-fetched and impossible theory to which he can shape the world.

The main character, Billy Pilgrim, was in World War II and present at the Allied firebombing of Dresden, as was Kurt Vonnegut himself. It seems then that the war has desensitized Billy. The Tralfamdorian's
Because they believe that all moments of time have already happened (since all moments repeat themselves endlessly), they possess an attitude of acceptance about their fates, figuring that they are powerless to change them.
I actually used a clip from Slaugherhouse Five, the film, in my high school Great Books class "Meaning of Life" project, back when I had a pretty pessimistic attitude about free will, so I guess I understood that aspect of the book.

Lastly, SparkNotes says about the book's famous "So it goes" motif:
The phrase “So it goes” follows every mention of death in the novel, equalizing all of them, whether they are natural, accidental, or intentional, and whether they occur on a massive scale or on a very personal one.
I think that is a very sincere tribute to the gravity of death, even though the book emphasizes the transience of life.

Anyway, I think I should change the title of my blog to Deep Thoughts. Heh.

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