My book report was on Slaughterhouse 5, a literary fiction novel written by Kurt Vonnegut. It is also known as The Children’s Crusade and was the most read anti war book during the late 1900s. Vonnegut began this novel during the height of the Vietnam war, but published it in 1969. This book plays a major role in literature when it comes to addressing large scale acts of violence and massacres. In this novel Vonnegut attempts to chronicle the violence of the World War II bombing of Dresden and truly expresses the effects on soldiers post war. This novel is none like I have read before as there is our main protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, who narrates most of the novel. However, in two chapters of the book, it is written in first person and Vonnegut becomes the narrator. Also throughout the book Vonnegut actually includes himself as a side character that interacts with main ones.
This novel is written in a form that is created by this author. Vonnegut calls this style of writing Tralfamadorian.This term is a type of alien being created by Vonnegut as well.This type of writing contains a series of brief urgent messages provided by the author. These scenes are presented out of order in an attempt to create the effect very all of these events happened all at once. These scenes have been chosen wisely. However, this book also forms a reality that Pilgrim can not see, our reality. But these scenes are mostly presented from Pilgrim’s perspective, as such, the narrative blends historical events with fiction and that fiction blends with historical events with these fantasies of alien abduction.
This novel’s protagonist is Billy Pilgrim. He was a soldier in WWII and wrote the has flashbacks and fantasies that he believes are actual time travel. Vonnegut describes himself as unstuck in time and the events in this novel are written through jumps between time and places rather than chronologically. He was a prisoner of war in Germany, held in Dresden which was largely destroyed by Allied bombing for the end of war. Because of his traumatic experiences during the war, Pilgrim now faces difficult obstacles when trying to adjust to civilian life. Pilgrim’s whole character is a demonstration of how war trauma affects the individual psyche because he believes completely in the fantasies of aliens and being abducted. This definitely shows how post war trauma and the experiences of such gruesome massacres can really take a toll on the human mind.
The antagonist was Bertram Copeland Rumfoord. Pilgrim experiences him later on in the story but Rumfoord is the complete opposite of Pilgrim. He is a rich 70 year old with an athletic body and a young beautiful wife. Rumfoord looks at Billy as pathetic. Rumfoord made war violence possible from off the battlefield. Rumfoord believes that if you are stronger, then show no mercy. He wants to glorify the Dresden bombing and make war seem reasonable and positive. Rumfoord wants popularize and glorify war and Pilgrim is very antiwar.
The plot of this novel is when Vonnegut approaches the need to testify the events in WWII by writing in a way that understands and evades the past at the same time. The narrator, Pilgrim, was in prison and the city above him, Dresden, was being completely obliterated by bombs. Pilgrim and his fellow prisoners were held 60 feet under ground and only obtained their knowledge on what is going on at the ground above by eavesdropping guards. he jumps time and has fantasies where is abducted by a superior alien race called Tralfamadorians and set in a zoo by them. All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist. Tralfamadorians can look at all of these moments.This diminishes the feeling and immediacy of violence. The same thing with the whispers that he hears. Through these rumors, Pilgrim and the other prisoners are only hearing about the destruction above them. They receive only vague descriptions and are not able to accurately depict the exact brutality and massacre that is occurring. However, there is also a deep and horrifying feeling that you don’t know the extent of these bombings and massacres. The bombings are not just a threat to Pilgrim’s life, or even the prisoner’s. It is a threat to all life, everywhere.
I loved this book. I would definitely recommend to anybody. This book has so many backs and forths through time and place. It is definitely a very crazy book and I did not understand it until I did some background research, but you can look at this novel in so many different ways. You can choose to believe whether the tralfamadorians are real or Billy Pilgrim’s time-travel and abduction by aliens were hallucinations induced by posttraumatic stress disorder caused by his role in WWII.
“So it goes.” These three words are repeated multiple times throughout the novel and shows that was what Tralfamadorians says when they see a dead person or somebody grieving. To them, death is just an occurance at a particular moment in one’s existence. The same person is still alive in other moments. Billy Pilgrim now views death the same way, as if it’s just one moment among many other moments. To me it means that the universe doesn’t care about our lives and it’s up to us to make the best of it. Sometimes that is poorly shown and sometimes it could be amazing. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, so it goes. Sometimes the most beautiful things happen to awful people, so it goes. Sometimes everything works out accordingly, so it goes.
Vonnegut wrote the book in the Vietnam era, and it closely mirrors his personal experiences in World War II along with his experience with the time travel and aliens. The philosophy of the Tralfamadorians that Billy Pilgrim encounters in Slaughterhouse Five is unlike that of humans. They believe in time as being something inevitable. Moments can and always will occur in some way or another. Death does not mean the end of one’s life because they will always exist through the past. The Tralfamadorians have a deep understanding of time and fate and they try to share that knowledge with Billy.