And so on.
THe infamous book of Dresden
Kurt Vonnegut begins Slaughterhouse Five from his own point of view sharing how he began to write the novel. He starts by telling the audience of how he tracked down an old war buddy, Bernard O’Hare, to tell him about this book he wants to write; however, Bernard seems unenthusiastic about the whole thing and is no help to Vonnegut. After this conversation, Vonnegut stills decides to go pay his old friend a visit one evening; they were having a nice time reminiscing when the narrator notice’s Bernard’s wife, Mary, for whom the book is now dedicated to. She is aggravated in the fact that if the narrator were to write a book, he would make himself and Bernard look like tough men, when in fact they were just scared babies when they entered the war. Vonnegut promised that he wouldn’t make the book like that, and that he’d call it The Children’s Crusade; and thus the friendship between the two of them began. After this he goes and reads up on what exactly happened in the real Children’s Crusade, and then later reads a little about Dresden. In 1967, the narrator and Bernard return to Dresden. While flying over there, Vonnegut gets delayed and Boston and stays in a hotel; while staying in the hotel he has hallucinated that someone has messed with the clocks and with every tick he feels as if years have passed. In the hotel he reads a book by Erika Ostrovsky in which the main character sees death and the passing of time as the same thing. He also read about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and how Lot’s wife looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt; he loves her for that and what a human thing it was for her to do. He now presents his audience with his anti-war book and he will no longer look back on his past and role in the war.
In the opening of Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut delivers the audience the speculation of his book through a blunt and matter-of-fact tone. His syntactical structure is frank and at times playful. The reader might as well be listening to his direct thoughts run through his head as he writes in a way such that is sporadic by constantly searching to answer his own questions. Through his simplistic structure of sentences he captures the detached and realistic tone that he uses to recount his experiences of the war to the audience. Further analysis of the asyndeton and parataxis embodied in the text allows the reader to clearly see the inner workings of the mind of a man who has seen massacre unfathomable to most any person reading the book. His paratactic structure moves the text into a rhythm at key points in the chapter and has the reader pausing where he pauses in his mind with his subtle flow of “I got O’Hare on the line in 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”(Vonnegut 4) and with time to pause the reader digests the words and sees clearly the pain he feels. The ideas climaxing one after another in his use of asyndeton serve as a catalyst for his compiling of thoughts and his abundant description of events by “When I got home from the Second World War twenty-three years ago, I thought it would be easy for me to write about the destruction of Dresden, since all I would have to do would be to report what I had seen” (2). Vonnegut uses dramatic detail in an almost juxtaposition of events through “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 as the middle. And the blue line met the red line and the yellow line, and the yellow line stopped because the character represented by the yellow line was dead” (5), which shows his enthusiasm to publish every thought he has on his time in Dresden and clear his mind. Using hypotaxis structures sparingly in the chapter allows the reader to see Vonnegut’s rush of words that spills out of him that are better marked by the short and exact phrases in polysyndeton that smother the text. The audience becomes aware of the struggle Vonnegut is experiencing in his writing and jumbled explanations showcase the adversity he faces in writing the most important parts of his story. The tone is consistent throughout the chapter and is consumed with a cynical sense that is laced with the highest form of sincerity because there is no beautiful way to write about war and if there was, it would be a lie. His simple and prudent structure of sentences in the first chapter reveal the questions he has that still remain unanswered; the structure serves to cleanse his mind while he further argues the negative effects of war that he is framing as well as the mistakes man makes.
Vonnegut enters into an introduction with the reader that defines his struggle with the book he so desperately wishes to write about his experiences in Dresden. In reflection of a larger than twenty year period, Vonnegut moves forth to outline the very argument of his book. He proudly informs the audience that it is his wish for his children to never embark in any profession that supports massacre; may that profession be production or direct infantry, he wants no part in the matter. From his distaste for such massacre, yielded fully by his own World War II experiences, he produces the clear understanding that he is against war. More specifically he is against massacre. The book will stand to highlight his beliefs. The book is meant to inform the reader about the bombings in Dresden and further inform the reader about the massacres and the blood that was shed along with the tinges of revenge that seem utterly incompetent in war. Vonnegut prepares the reader for a book unknown. His constant narration of his life after the war and his failed attempts to finish his book reveals the emotion and care the book posses. The audience knows that the book displays a story of the bombings of Dresden but he leaves the mystery of how it is explained. Vonnegut tells the reader that "All this happened, more or less" (Vonnegut 1); therefore showcasing his manipulation of fiction and reality, he tells the reader to expect the words that no one else writes. Vonnegut informs the reader from the beginning that the book is about anti-war and that there will be many deaths and that war is not beautiful in any light and that he does not want to be depicted as a hero and he tells the audience how it will begin and how it will end. Vonnegut tells the audience it starts with Billy Pilgrim, and ends with a chirping bird. The chirping bird plays great symbolism in the book, though the audience has yet to know what it is. The bird is not alone in helping Vonnegut write his book, though each part is significantly different. The audience is immediately aware of his clear precision of words and furthermore knows Slaughterhouse Five abundantly serves sharp truth about the war experience and the effects. The effects of the war greatly influence Vonnegut and hold power in the proper expression of Dresden. His details of every little happening are enlightening, lead the reader to be entertained, fill the book with fresh thought. He is in a hurry to tell the audience every bit that he knows, the season, the smell, the slaughterhouse door number, the time he spent pondering over what the book should even highlight, the importance of the meaning, the importance of Mary O’Hare. Though the book starts out different, with a personal note from Vonnegut that is original and invigorating, and it is deemed to be jumbled and twisted, he ends with unity as he has completely told the story of Dresden and cleared his thoughts. Vonnegut most clearly argues his stand against war but a strong piece of his book derives from his feelings about humanity and the inability of man to be anything but human. Humans make mistakes. Vonnegut says he made a mistake. He believes some mistakes are necessary. Some mistakes make us a pillar of salt.
In Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut uses many motifs to help illustrate his story. One motif would be “so it goes”. In chapter one he uses it not too frequently, but enough to make a statement and make known that he is not taking the subject lightly. He tends to use it after he mentions a death; either one of importance or one of minimal meaning. Some would say he does this to stay consistent but also to prove a point that death is always amongst. “So it goes” reminds the audience that death plays a key role in the story Vonnegut is trying to tell and that when in war time, death is unavoidable. A second motif Vonnegut uses in Slaughterhouse Five is using himself as the main character in the first chapter but then projecting himself to be a new character in the rest of the novel. This illustrates that the story has a strong connection with his life, his experiences, and his convictions; however, he wants to give it new life by giving it to a different “person”. This enable s him to be able to walk away easier when he is done righting his story, able to restart his life and leave his war past behind.