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Shilpa Kancharlaon 1 December 2012
Transcript of Slaughterhouse Five
Billy remembers reading a book which had a plot somewhat similar to his experience on Tralfamadore. Interestingly, in the book the "zoo animals" are given big boards and tickers which show what is supposed to be stock market data. However, it actually changes on the whims of the aliens just to get the humans to show different emotions. Just as governments in the World War II controlled the information reaching their citizens, whether true or false. Citizens were falsely informed, which is a negative attribute of war.
"This too, was the title of a book by Trout, The Gutless Wonder. It was about a robot who had bad breath, who became popular after his halitosis was cured. But what made the story remarkable, since it was written in 1932, was that it predicted the widespread use of burning jellied gasoline on human beings ... Trout's leading robot looked like a human being, and could talk and dance and so on, and go out with girls. And nobody held it against him that he dropped jellied gasoline on people. But they found his halitosis unforgivable. But then he cleared that up, and he was welcomed to the human race" (Vonnegut 168). Here Vonnegut makes fun of how desensitized humans have become, and how shallow they are, caring more about the robot's appearance than the fact that he remorselessly kills thousands of people. Edgar Derby, a man anxiously waiting to get home, writes "letters home in his head, telling his wife that he was alive and well, that she shouldn't worry, that the war was nearly over, that he would be home soon" (Vonnegut 183); ironically, "poor old Edgar Derby" (Vonnegut 188) survives the whole war, but in the end he is shot for stealing a tea pot. The irony portrayed in this aspect of the novel emphasizes how nothing positive comes from war after or during it. After suffering through the Dresden Firebombing, Billy Pilgrim becomes "unstuck" in time, reliving moments of his past war experiences and his current life as an ophthalmologist in Illium, New York out of chronological order. Through his adventures, he is kidnapped by an alien race known as the Tralfamadorians of Tralfamadore, who believe that moments already have been etched out and are not subject to change. As the war transforms his total perception of the world, society, including his loved ones, questions his sanity. "Somewhere in there the poor old high school teacher, Edgar Derby, was caught with a teapot he had taken from the catacombs. He was arrested for plundering. He was tried and shot. (Vonnegut 214).
The short, blunt way that Vonnegut states "He was tried and shot" imparts the idea that nothing good comes of war, a good man was killed for such a menial crime. Such a small event in the large scale still brings much sadness. During the war, Billy invents the abductions to create an escape from the horrors which surrounded him. Once, Billy overheard Rosewater say to a psychiatrist "'I think you guys are going to have to come up with a lot of wonderful new lies, or people just aren't going to want to go on living'" (Vonnegut 129). FREE WILL IS NON-EXISTENT WAR CHANGES PERSPECTIVES Billy tries to live his life by the phrase, "God grant me the
serenity to accept the things
I cannot change,
courage to change the things
and wisdom always to tell
the difference" (Vonnegut 267). A Tralfamadorian tells Billy, “If I hadn’t spent so much time studying Earthlings,” said the Tralfamadorian, “I wouldn’t have any idea what was meant by ‘free will.’ I’ve visited thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied reports on one hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will" (Vonnegut 86). Conclusion Vonnegut uses satire to bring attention to both the individuals who have been negatively affected by war, and the societies which are composed of them. Billy continues to float through his dream life and promote his fabricated teachings. War has irreversibly deluded him, and left a irreparable imprint on his mind. Vonnegut ultimately proves that war has no beneficial effects, rather, it only makes men more mentally unstable. "'It had to be done,' Rumfoord told Billy, speaking of the destruction of Dresden.
'I know,' said billy.
'I know. I'm not complaining.'
'It must have been hell on the ground.'
'It was,' said Billy Pilgrim.
'Pity the men who had to do it.'
'You must have had mixed feelings, there on the ground.'
'It was all right,' said Billy. Everything is all right, and everybody has to do exactly what he does. I learned that on Tralfamadore" (Vonnegut 198).
The use of short sentences here emphasizes the flawed way of thinking that Billy exhibits during his mental illness. He has created an world and an alien race who are omniscient, and believes that the ground covered with hundreds of dead bodies was "all right." Billy Pilgrim