Slaughterhouse Five

Explication of Chapter one

Chapter One in General

In chapter 1 Vonnegut tells his adventure of writing his great war story. He writes during what can be assumed to be 1969 in his home. Vonnegut takes the reader from Dresden, German in 1967 to O'Hares house in 1694. He also mentions his time in his home in Cape Cod as a younger man, Vonnegut weaves a complex story both sentimental and painful, melancholy and contemplative. His style is marked by an overabundant usage of asyndeton, and the relentless piling of simple sentence upon simple sentence. At first the audience may be apt to believe Vonnegut’s writing is oversimplified, but it is in the simplicity and abundant nature of asyndeton that the reader understands the pain Vonnegut must explore in the process of writing Slaughterhouse Five. For example, Vonnegut describes a phone call with an old war buddy. (4). The reader first takes a sentimental romp with Vonnegut into the friendship the two shared, but then the reader is confronted by the reality that the friendship is overpowered by a relentless nature of painful memories, as relentless as the simple independent clauses piling one upon the other, like Vonnegut’s memories, jumbled inside, left to deal with alone in the night while his family sleeps. Vonnegut’s elements of post modernism in chapter 1 are his use of first person style, he openly states his opinion of his book being anti-war, and he relates the book to historical fiction, such as the true events of the man shot over a teapot and the air bombing in Dresden, but states not all of it may be true by saying “All this happened, more or less” (1). He tells the chapter through is own style of dark humor or sometimes he lack of any emotion, which easily conveys to the reader. Vonnegut also explains his reasoning through out.

Analysis and Ideas of Rhetorical Elements

Vonnegut uses a captivating mixture of detached emotion and mirthless humor to create his own unique tone. He develops this unique style with a massive amount of syntactical strategies that augment and reinforce his tone and further the reader’s experience within the novel. Periodic and cumulative play a role in the novel by revealing and defining, as well as building up to and dazzling, the reader with information about Vonnegut’s life during and after the war. Asyndeton, for example, is used repetitively to casually slide the author into the plot through an overabundance of simple sentences. “He is short and I am tall. We were Mutt and Jeff in the war. We were captured together in the war,” (4). Polysyndeton also plays a strong role in the text by drawing the reader’s attention towards important sections of Vonnegut’s novel, such as his struggle with designing the plot of the novel. “One end of the wallpaper was the beginning of the story, and the other end was the end, and then there was all that middle part, which was the middle,” (5). These various strategies all build up to underline Vonnegut’s claim that life goes on and that it is not a human’s purpose to look back.

Expectations and Arguments

Vonnegut uses a captivating mixture of detached emotion and mirthless humor to create his own unique tone. He develops this unique style with a massive amount of syntactical strategies that augment and reinforce his tone and further the reader’s experience within the novel. Periodic and cumulative play a role in the novel by revealing and defining, as well as building up to and dazzling, the reader with information about Vonnegut’s life during and after the war. Asyndeton, for example, is used repetitively to casually slide the author into the plot through an overabundance of simple sentences. “He is short and I am tall. We were Mutt and Jeff in the war. We were captured together in the war,” (4). Polysyndeton also plays a strong role in the text by drawing the reader’s attention towards important sections of Vonnegut’s novel, such as his struggle with designing the plot of the novel. “One end of the wallpaper was the beginning of the story, and the other end was the end, and then there was all that middle part, which was the middle,” (5). These various strategies all build up to underline Vonnegut’s claim that life goes on and that it is not a human’s purpose to look back.In chapter 1 of Slaughterhouse 5, Vonnegut reveals that the book will be anti war in a way, as it details the Dresden bombing. He explains the time it took to write the book, and the hardships in determining what to say in it. At one point, Vonnegut explains that “there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre” (Vonnegut 19). What results is a “failure” and starts off with “Listen: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time. It ends like this: Poo-tee-weet?” (Vonnegut 22).Throughout the book, Vonnegut will be arguing the futility in looking back on the past and dwelling upon the bad times, as shown with his repetition of “so it goes” at the mention of any death.

Vonnegut's Motifs

A motif used by Vonnegut was a line from a song he mentioned, the line being “My name is Yon Yonson”. The song told the story of the man, Yon Yonson, where he was from, where he worked, and when ever someone asked his name, the song would repeat and repeat, identified through the quote by Vonnegut, “My name is Yon Yonson, I work in Wisconsin. And so on to infinity” (3). The line was an analogy for Vonnegut writing his famous war book. Vonnegut knows he wants to write his war novel, and he knows he wants it to be about the air bombing in Dresden, and he also knows he wants true events to in the book, but that’s as far as he has gotten in 22 years, then he repeats his cycle. Another motif used by Vonnegut is the phrase “So it goes”. The phrase is said by Vonnegut after a death is mention. The death is typical described in two sentences and followed by “So it goes”. It’s Vonnegut’s way of identifying with the death, but acknowledges life does go on. The phrase is not meant to be detached, just understanding.