The Clock Ticks

Time vs. Death

April Castillo and Stephanie Grove

Slaughterhouse Five: Chapter One

In Chapter One of Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut immerses his audience with a captivating biography of his life-changing experiences as a Prisoner of War. Vonnegut entices the audience by the way he unintentionally establishes his credibility while narrating the culminating effects War World II had on him as an individual, such as confusion and disorientation with time and acceptance and resignation of death and his overall inability to dismiss the war from his mind. Vonnegut includes Mary O'Hare to depict to the audience the image that society had on the war. O'Hare asserts that Vonnegut's intentions for writing the novel were immoral. She thought he was 'recruiting' more young children for the war. Vonnegut made the subtitle, "The Children's Crusade" because of her. It was a sign of Vonnegut's acknowledgement of how young they truly were to be a part of the 'crusade' him and O'Hare's husband underwent because of the war and he was in no way 'promoting' it. Throughout Chapter One, Vonnegut repeatedly expresses his strong conviction in creating a novel and ironically ends the chapter by admitting the sensation of failure he has towards the novel as a whole.

Vonnegut's Syntactical Structure

Vonnegut approaches a post modernistic style by expressing the changes war can have on, not only the soldiers but, the civilians on the home front. As a returning soldier from war, Vonnegut executes a detached and lonely tone. The loneliness is revealed over time as he discuses his own experiences with war; the audience comes to realize that his loneliness is his burden carried, even though he lived the war so many years ago. Vonnegut applies parataxis and polysyndeton is order to control and shape his central purpose. The short simple sentences provided leave the audience with no further questions as to the plot and provide a clear and concise description or explanation as to the plot's surroundings. Also, parataxis secures Vonnegut's loneliness as he continues on about his time as a prisoner of war and his lack of souvenirs and his connections to Mr. O'Hare and his lack of connection with Mrs. O'Hare and his detached expression when death approaches: "O'Hare didn't have any souvenirs. Almost most everybody else did. I had a ceremonial Luftwaffe saber, still do"' (Vonnegut 7). Vonnegut uses polysyndeton to reiterate his 'laundry lists,' which only deepens his credibility and defines all that he has, had or will encounter in the past, present or future. (Vonnegut 77) By using a reference to the Bible, Vonnegut's credibility is further established: "Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of Heaven; and He overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground" (Vonnegut 27). Vonnegut, as we all know, is not supporting war, but he also disagrees with the situation, treatment and choosing of the soldiers and civilians during World War Two. Meaning there is a time for everything, there is a time to remember, there is a time to look back, there is a time to forget, there is a time to move forward.

Expectation vs. Reality

Vonnegut uses Slaughterhouse-Five as his time and place to unload his burden of loneliness and detachment with death, in order to only look forward and leave his past behind. Throughout Chapter One, Vonnegut outlines his novel by separating his life into three distinct time periods: before war, during war, and after war. By creating these different time moments, Vonnegut gives the audience bits and pieces of each aspect in order to foreshadow the plot-line to follow. Throughout the novel, the audience is expectant of a story about, not only his experiences during war but, the mental process which developed his current perspective on war and time. By creating these fragments of time throughout his life, Vonnegut is able to emphasize on the substantial parts of his excursion that allowed him to prove his argument. His argument, being perceived as the belief that there is a time for everything to happen in life, is ingrained throughout his experiences from before, during and after the war. By the end of the first chapter, it is clear to the audience that Vonnegut's diction is tremendously distinctive from any author, employing sudden shifts in time and simultaneously creating an effective way of attracting the audience to observe the key aspects of his life.

Time & Death

Time is a maze. Time is our friend. Time is our enemy. Time is misleading. Vonnegut insinuates throughout the entire first chapter of Slaughterhouse Five that he acknowledges that there are specific moments in life that one must learn to accept. His repetitive use of "so it goes" is said in correlation to any subject that is related to death, not only death with human beings but death amongst inanimate objects as well. By doing so, Vonnegut is in no way evoking that death should simply be. In fact, he is actually expressing his advancement in understanding and accepting death as it is. Throughout the discourse of Chapter One, he places all his memories in a small summary that reminisces on the times he had before he went to the war, and the times he had during the war, and the times he had after the war. During these three time periods, Vonnegut integrates "so it goes" in various occasions, depicting the incessant encounters he had with death. Although every one of these encounters were not directly between him and death, Vonnegut found it imperative to integrate each and every one of them into his novel in order to establish his relationship with death. After so many confrontations with such a detached subject, Vonnegut expresses his acceptance of death through "so it goes" which further corroborates his amend with death. His constant repetition of time and death allows the audience to perceive his main argument, which is the fact that there is a time for everything, including a time for death. Vonnegut highlights these specific moments of death and logs them throughout his entire novel, encompassing time amongst death and maintaining these two subjects as main motifs expressed in every time period his mind travels to.