Time-So It Goes

An Explication of CHapter 1 of Slaughterhouse Five


Kurt Vonnegut, the author and inspiration for the main character of Slaughterhouse Five, wrote his novel based on the occurences of the bombing of Dresden, Germany that took place in 1945. He writes this piece using tactics from the Post-Modernist era such as expressing his emotions towards the war through characters such as Mary O'Hare, a woman who immediately discusses her disgust for a book based upon their experiences in the war. Vonnegut uses a connotative style, implying the difficulty found in the creation of this novel through his constant referral to the extensive period of time required for the finishing of Slaughterhouse Five. He employs this type of style to illustrate the hardships of being a prisoner of war and how it can affect one's internal being.


Vonnegut marks his argument through the uses of polysyndeton, parallelism, imagery, and prominently parataxis. Through his application of an abundance of simplistic sentences, Vonnegut's tone becomes quite disengaged. "I got O'Hare on the line this way. He is short and I am tall. We were Mutt and Jeff in the war. We were captured together in the war. I told him who I was on the telephone. He had no trouble believing it. He was up. He was reading. Everybody else in his house was asleep" (4). When Vonnegut employs the syntactical strategy of parataxis, he shows detached feelings towards his writing. This simplistic style of writing serves to underline his central argument which states that time is necessary for the expression of internal emotions. Due to Vonnegut's inarticulation towards his emotions developed from the war, his detached tone is expected because he cannot express his emotions developed from the war. Vonnegut will later discuss his difficulty with his self-realization after spending a prolonged period of time as a prisoner of war.


From the very beginning, Vonnegut discusses with readers that this novel will provide insight to those who did not experience World War II, more specifically the bombing of Dresden, Germany. He explains that the novel will include gruesome stories from the war, experienced firsthand by the author. Vonnegut reveals that the writing of Slaughterhouse Five was not a simple task, and it required a profusion of his time, twenty-three year to be exact. Through his constant referral to the extensive amount of time required to write this novel, Vonnegut argues and will argue throughout the novel that time is vital to the realization and expression of internal emotions.


Vonnegut employs motifs to illustrate his argument of the necessity of time in the self-realization of internal feelings. Some examples of the motifs he uses include "so it goes" and time. Through the use of the motif of time, Vonnegut shows how difficult it is to explain his experiences and put them into words for others to understand, which seems to be is central argument throughout the text. "So It Goes," the second motif that Vonnegut uses often, expresses a strange way of acknowledging death. Instead of showing dismay towards someone's passing, he simply explains how someone died, showing little to no emotion, which implies his need for more time to articulate his internal feelings.
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