Innocence: So it Goes
Slaughterhouse Five Chapter 1 Explication
The first Chapter of the novel, Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut entwines an explanation behind why he writes his book through the use of a detached and hollow tone. The structure of his writing has a very brusque style and he highlights this with his heavy use of asyndeton and parataxis and hypotaxis and polysyndeton and Vonnegut overwhelms the audience by placing simple sentence after simple sentence, in order to capture the resentment and confusion a solider continues to experience long after he is home safely from the war. Vonnegut uses an example of this “laundry list” effect when he discusses O’hare and himself, “He was a district attorney in Pennsylvania. I was a writer on Cape Cod. We had been privates in the war, infantry scouts” (9).The simplicity in the description of Vonnegut’s friend and himself helps to show the reader just how detached and lost he is when it comes to his memories of war, and just how hard it is for him to put his thoughts into words. The extensive use of the conjunction “and” in polysyndeton and hypotaxis helps to emphasize all the jumbled up and horrific memories from the war that come to him day by day without control and a clear example that Vonnegut employs is, “A whole city gets burned down, and thousands and thousands of people are killed. And then this one American foot soldier is arrested in the ruins for taking a teapot. And he’s given a regular trial, and then he’s shot by a firing squad” (10). Having this ample amount of asyndeton, parataxis along and his abundance of polysyndeton and hypotaxis not only forces the reader to become awakened to this sense of vacant solitude that was caused by the harsh realities that Vonnegut had experienced in the war many years before, but also helps to develop his argument that even though war is unnecessary and has long lasting effects on the people in it, not matter what, war will always exist.
Vonnegut first introduces the motif of the innocence of children by discussing the marvel his daughter and her friend experience seeing a river for the first time on page 11. Vonnegut admires the girls' naivete, or he would not have included it in the novel. Vonnegut includes many scenes in the novel that seem to be unrelated but have a deeper, subsurface meaning. Vonnegut clearly discusses the idea of innocence in children when he describes the outburst of Mary O'Hare. Mary O'Hare was furious because Vonnegut and Mr. O'Hare were "just babies in the war- like the ones upstairs" and she believed that Vonnegut would write his Dresden book as if the soldiers were all grown men who had already lost their innocence. Mary was deeply disturbed by the idea of children being robbed of their innocence in war. Vonnegut promises Mary O'Hare that he will not write the book as if the soldiers are grown men, but will accurately portray them as children. This leads the reader to believe that Vonnegut will accent the innocence of his main character Billy Pilgrim. This innocence will be a very important defining characteristic of Billy Pilgrim