So It Goes

Explication of Chapter 1 of Slaughterhouse Five

Analysis of Vonneguts Syntax

In his first chapter of Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut reveals his personal experiences during the war in a detached yet blunt tone, and tells the readers about the difficult process of writing a book about the war. Through his use of tone it is clear how difficult it is for him to distribute war memories onto paper. At first glance Vonnegut’s syntactical structure seems very simplistic. Later focusing on his use of polysyndeton and asyndeton, the readers realize the horrifying truth of a man who undergoes a demoralizing massacre. Over and over in the first chapter, Vonnegut uses simple short sentences achieving an asyndeton structure. "I taught in the afternoons. In the mornings I wrote. I was not to be disturbed. I was working on my famouse book about Dresden" (Vonnegut 18). In using this asynedton structure, readers grasp the difficulty of constructing a book about war and see that these simple sentences are actually quite complex, showing the horrifying truth behind war. Through polysyndeton and asyndeton, Vonnegut achieves his argument that war is inevitable and nothing can be done to stop it.  

Vonneguts Argument

Vonnegut through his personal experiences sets an outline of what to expect in his book. In his first chapter, Vonnegut is speaking of his personal experiences with O'Hare. An old war buddy. They both were captured together in Dresden. And they were released together. "We would chuckle or grin sometimes, as though war stories were coming back, but neither of us could remember anything good" (Vonnegut 13). From his relationship with O'Hare and their dark, detached feelings towards the war, the readers can suspect a similar relationship as well as an overall detached feeling towards war. In his novel, Vonnegut will argue against the misconception of war formed by society, so that the actual truth behind war will be revealed, which is that war is inevitable and so is death.

Vonnegut's Motifs

In chapter one of Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut introduces various motifs that will occur throughout the duration of the novel. “So it goes” is perhaps the most prominent motif in the text that repeatedly shows the death of countless individuals. In chapter one, Vonnegut states, “his mother was incinerated in the Dresden fire-storm. So it goes,” (2). From this quote, readers see that “so it goes” is displayed after the death of his mother. Perhaps Vonnegut constantly uses this phrase as a sort of mediation for him concerning all of the deaths that he has to overcome. Vonnegut also presents another motif “poo-tee-weet” in chapter one. The significance of this phrase is to exemplify that there is nothing left to be said regarding the war. In chapter one, Vonnegut states, “It ends like this: Poo-tee-weet,” (22). This quote reveals that there is simply nothing to say at all; therefore, Vonnegut uses the motif “poo-tee-weet” to display the confusion and unspoken words during the war.

Summary of Chapter One

In chapter one of Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut begins by introducing himself as the narrator. To display his personal experience, to illustrate the truth about the war from his beliefs, is the structure Vonnegut uses in his novel. By using himself as the narrator and sharing his personal perspective, Vonnegut seeks to grasp the reader by discussing the horrible things he encountered while he was serving in Dresden. His ideas relate to post modernism. They display a sense of denying the absolute truth. Vonnegut seeks take away the portrayed glory of war. He wants to identify the cruelty of it. Throughout the first chapter the setting jumps from place to place as he meets with individuals who give him insight to the war; however, the main setting is Dresden and he discusses the time that he went back in 1967. Vonnegut “thought it would be easy to write about the destruction of Dresden,” but throughout chapter one he shows the struggle to write about such a negative topic. (2) Vonnegut first meets with an old friend, Bernard V. O’Hare and he tells him that he is writing a book about Dresden and asked him for help remembering things. A few weeks later, Vonnegut goes to meet O’Hare off Cape Cod to have a face-to-face discussion regarding passed wartime experiences and memories. During their conversation, O’Hare’s wife, Marry, explains why that she doesn’t like the idea of the book because she doesn’t want individuals to feel that its right for children to be fighting in the war; she doesn’t want for her own children to have to experience the horrific fights during the war. Vonnegut wrote this chapter to show readers the truth about the war, shares his journey of writing the novel, while the duration of Slaughterhouse Five illustrates detail about memoires and past times of the war.