Essay, Research Paper: Slaughter House Five

Literature: World War

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Explore the use of "So it goes." Is it to be viewed as resignation to
the horrors of death? Is it Billy's response? Vonnegut's? Yours? “So it
goes” is Billy Pilgrim’s theory regarding death. He is simply saying that
death is no big deal. Since he saw so much death in World War II, and witnessed
a bombing two times as worse as Hiroshima, he deals with death much differently
than others. Because of everything he has gone through, Billy has become numb to
death. It has become a regular situation in his life. Billy first uses this
saying on page 2, when he is talking about the death of Gerhard Muller’s
mother. Because Billy often travels to and from Tralfamadore, he has become
accustomed to using their theories about life. “When a Tralfamadorian sees a
corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that
particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other
moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say
what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is ‘So it Goes’”
(27). Billy thinks that there is no complete death, and it has no finality.
Humans are often outraged at his theory when they hear Billy talking about it.
They cannot comprehend how someone can be so emotionless about death. “The
most important thing that 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” (26-27). Billy uses this as a defense
mechanism for life. This shows that Billy will always live in a dream world.
Billy’s response is Vonnegut’s response in Slaughterhouse-Five. But,
Vonnegut’s memories were too painful for him, so he tells his life through
Billy Pilgrim. It is viewed as a resignation to the horrors of death because
Vonnegut had lived through many tough points in American history; the stock
market crash of 1929, the Great Depression, and finally World War II. 7. Explain
the significance of all the material on the title page of this novel. The title
page leads off with the other name Kurt Vonnegut gave Slaughterhouse-Five - The
Children's Crusade. This title came from both Mary O'Hare at the beginning of
the book and Edgar Derby. Mary became very angry when her husband was talking to
Vonnegut because she did not want her children, who were just babies at the time
to give up their lives for the war. "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" (14). Derby used "The Children's
Crusade" towards the middle of the book when he was telling the colonel how
young every American was in the war. "A duty-dance with death" refers
to the fact that it was the American soldiers task to fight for their country
even if it meant that they were going to die. Vonnegut shows this by retelling
his thoughts and experiences of World War II through Billy. Now Vonnegut lives
in Cape Cod, and is "smoking too much.” Since the war is over and he is
retired, Vonnegut can now relax and enjoy vacation. He does this often by
smoking. "An American Infantry Scout Hors de Combat" refers to him
being a foot soldier in combat during the war. He witnessed the fire-bombing of
Dresden, Germany. The fire-bombing of Dresden, Germany was a secret ambush of
the United States that had double the casualties of those in Hiroshima, Japan
from the atomic bomb. Florence is a cultural city in Rome, and the Elbe is a
river in Germany. So by Vonnegut saying, "The Florence of the Elbe,"
he is referring to Dresden as the cultural city of Germany before it got blown
into smithereens by the Americans. Vonnegut “survived to tell the tale.” He
was able to survive even after being a prisoner of war (P.O.W.) for a good
portion of the war. Slaughterhouse-Five is told “somewhat in the telegraphic
schizophrenic manner.” The Tralfamadorians communicated telepathically. They
talked to each other through transference of thought. Vonnegut’s main
character Billy Pilgrim, was schizophrenic. He had multiple personalities
throughout the book. On top of this, he became “unstuck in time,” allowing
him to travel back and forth in time to any part of his life. For instance, in
one paragraph he would be in the middle of World War II, and a paragraph later,
he would be talking to his wife. Tralfamadore is an imaginary planet
446,120,000,000,000,000 miles away from Earth. This is a place very unlike
Earth. All of the Tralfamadorians can see in four dimensions, as compared to
Earthlings, who can only see in three. Tralfamadore also has many interesting
theories about life. “Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments
just the way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They
can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that
interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment
follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it
is gone forever” (27). Since Billy has traveled many times to Tralfamadore, he
uses all of their theories in his life.
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