Slaughterhouse Five

Elucidation of Chapter One

Summary of Chapter One

The main part of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, as he tells the audience, will take place in Dresden during World War II, but not only Dresden. The novel will also take place throughout the lifetime of the main character, but time is irrelevant because Billy “is unstuck in time,” (22). Vonnegut narrates chapter one in order to make his intentions about what he is writing clear. Vonnegut explains to his audience that the only true and factual parts of the novel are the war parts. The war parts are Vonnegut’s experiences from the war. In Vonnegut’s novel certain post-modernistic styles and elements arise. His writing gives the audience insight on his thoughts. Also, characteristics such as the use of first person in chapter one and his free talk of death and against war relate to a post-modernistic way of writing. The narration of the first chapter is different than the rest of the book, because Vonnegut stresses how he came to write the novel and why it must fail. To accomplish his style of a detached and hallow voice, Vonnegut incorporates paratactic style structures. These structures allow Vonnegut to reveal in depth ideas about the war while staying on the surface as if he is afraid to disappear into the chasm that his ideas create.

Vonnegut's Rhetorical Strategies and Tone

Vonnegut narrates chapter one of his novel with a hollow and detached tone. He achieves this tone through empty comparisons and an overwhelming use of paratactic syntax. The diction in his empty comparisons is exact leaving a feeling of detachment from Vonnegut. His paratactic syntax is defined by polysyndeton and asyndeton. The use of these rhetorical strategies enable Vonnegut to argue that time or moments in time will always just be, meaning that moments, past or present or future, cannot be changed in anyway. His use of polysyndeton in chapter one portrays an endless train of words for the purpose of giving information. The information received lacks a middle man or humanistic touch; therefore, building the tone in the hollow direction. His asyndeton structures radiate feelings of unfinished thoughts, feelings of un-detailed ideas. Vonnegut also incorporates irony into chapter one. Some of his irony comes from a war story of a soldier being shot for stealing. The addition of the short memory adds to the hollowness Vonnegut is creating in chapter one.

Prediction for Slaughterhouse Five

Vonnegut explains to his audience that he is going to illustrate the destruction of Dresden as he saw it in the war. He acknowledges to the audience that it will be an anti-war book. Details in chapter one allude that the book will end with all the prisoners of war being freed, also Vonnegut promises that the name will be “The Children’s Crusade” because those fighting the war were babies in the war. Simply boys fighting for someone else; simply boys who are not yet men. Vonnegut uses his last paragraph in chapter one to convey the exact words the novel will begin and end with. Although Vonnegut argues that the novel will be an anti-war novel, his underlying argument is that event, in wartime or in peacetime are unavoidable pieces of time that make up all of time. Vonnegut depicts very clearly exactly what his audience should expect from his novel.

Motifs in Slaughterhouse Five

Every novel has recurring ideas inside of it. Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse Five is no exception. Two of his motifs are "So it goes" and "The Children's Crusade". "So it goes" always comes after the death or mention of the death of any character or person mentioned in the novel. The meaning of those words placed together in context is along the lines of: that is how something happened. When looking for a deeper meaning to connect with the novel, "So it goes" can bring on a meaning of death being obsolete when compared with life. This motif will become important in the novel because it will help the audience to understand the value of life and death. "The Children's Crusade" will infiltrate the book on the premises of anti-war because war is being fought by babies. The motif comes from the way Vonnegut decides to name his novel. His decision was made only after a woman stresses that he was only a boy during the war. Motifs are important parts in literature due to their ability to create more to a writer's argument.