Hannah Christian and Avery Scarbrough
Kurt Vonnegut, the author of the novel Slaughterhouse Five, depicts his experiences of being a solider in World War II and when he was captured as a prisoner of war in 1944. He foreshadows that the setting will mostly take place in Dresden, Germany where a fire bombing took place and most of his horrific memories happened. Vonnegut enters the story with a humorous context and a deep underline emotion of sadness, and he describes the struggles of writing this book as an “old fart”. Vonnegut describes how difficult this book was for him to write because he didn't remember many of the details; unfortunately, this was just a traumatic coping mechanism. He shows us the depression and inner sadness that he feels because at night, when his family goes to sleep, he says up drinking and calling anyone who will answer. By jumping to scene to scene, the audience is introduced to the design of the book early on. Also, Post Modernism is prevalent in the text. Vonnegut tells the readers early on that these are his experiences; however, he has changed the names. He foreshadows Post Modernism because of the details of war and because he can feel the depression due to the events he witnessed during the bombing of Dresden. The first chapter was essential to the rest of the novel because it introduced Vonnegut’s humorous yet melancholy tone and writing style, and it shows the audience why Vonnegut writes the way he does. Without this chapter, the readers would have not understood the tools and elements that Vonnegut embeds in the text and of course, it sets the stage for the entire novel.
In chapter one of Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut uses a detached and melancholy tone to introduce his novel. His writing is marked by simple sentences that reveal to the reader his confusion that is still present as he tries to delve into his grim past. The paratactic structure is filled with examples of asyndeton that creates the image of a man who continues to try to cope with the trauma he experienced 23 years earlier.
Vonnegut uses the first chapter to his advantage because he sets up the story completely. He introduces motifs early so the readers can know what to expect from the rest of the book. “so it goes” and time are two of the major motifs introduced. “so it goes” is introduced early because it is what Vonnegut says after any sort of death. This motif is used many times during the novel and Vonnegut foreshadows by his detached tone toward death, the audience is going to be seeing a lot more throughout. Another main motif is time. Vonnegut alludes to the presents of Tralfamadorians by saying earthlings and he links these aliens to the aspect of time. Therefore, we can expect to find out more about these Tralfamadorians and about their opinions on time. Vonnegut leaves us another clue having to do with time in the first chapter near the end where he states, “Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time” (22). Why would Vonnegut focus so much on the aspect of time if this is an anti-war book? To say that his argument throughout the novel is anti-war is obvious. Vonnegut hints so much toward time because it is something he wants the readers to realize. Later in the novel, Vonnegut states that moments have happened in the past, present and future. He was us to understand that moments are unchangeable and they always were going to happen. Thinking of time this way, allows Vonnegut to feel less guilty of things he has experienced or seen. He makes time such an important argument of his so that he can get people to see a different way of looking at their lives and moments.
Vonnegut uses many ongoing motifs throughout his novel Slaughterhouse Five to address the negative affects that was had on him. The phrase “so it goes” occurs after any time a death is mentioned. As the novel continues it can be predicted that this motif will be used to express that regardless of the traumatic events that happen, life continues and the situations that occurred cannot be changed. Vonnegut also refers to “mustard gas and roses” whenever he discusses his drinking problems. However, though this phrase may seem simple, it actually has a very complex meaning as it represents Vonnegut’s time fighting in World War II, as well as the emotional and mental damage that the war caused him.