Chapter One

By: Jordyn Seaney and Savannah Shoemake

In chapter one of “Slaughterhouse Five” by Kurt Vonnegut, the author writes from his own personal perspective at Dresden in 1967. Vonnegut chose to make the first chapter form his perspective to establish credibility with his audience. Through this credibility he can bond and relate to his readers. Vonnegut talks about his experience in the war and how it has shaped him into the person he is today. Since he entered the war as a “child”, his child life got stripped away from him and he is trying to live it out as an adult.

The author’s syntactical structure shows his child-like qualities, by being short, simple, and choppy. Vonnegut’s tone in chapter one is somber, bitter, blunt, and child-like. Through hypotaxis, parataxis, asyndeton, polysyndeton, cumulative, and periodic syntactical structures he portrays this tone. An example of parataxis in chapter one is, "He had no trouble believing it. He was up. He was reading" (4). Vonnegut uses examples of both hypotaxis and polysndeton in the same quite, "as a trafficker in climaxes and thrills and characterization and wonderful dialogue and suspense and confrontationsIn"(5). Another example is of asyndeton which Vonnegut uses on page eleven, "I wrote the Air Force back then, asking for details about the raid on Dresden, who ordered it, how many planes did it, why they did it..."(11). An example of cumulative is, "It is so short and jumbled and jangled, Sam, because there is nothing to say about a massacre" (19). All of these forms of writing have specific characteristics, but they all add to Vonneguts child like style of writing. In chapter one Vonnegut portrays his argument that children should not experience the trauma of a war because it strips them of their child hood and innocence. He never got to live out his child life, so he is trying to live it now. This is revealed to the audience through the author’s child-like behavior such as, staying up at night to call his ex girlfriends, writing in crayons, and multiple choppy and child-like syntactical structures.

Vonnegut makes it clear to the audience in the first chapter that his writing style is going to be an unordinary read. On page 20 Vonnegut states, “The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only with the electric clocks, but the wind up kind, too.” Through this proclaim he author foreshadows to his readers about the time travel in this novel. He shows that he is going to jump around from year to year, setting to setting, non-chronologically. Vonnegut’s writing style is reflected from his child hood war experiences. Through this evident desire for a normal child hood portrays his idea that children should be kept out of the war.

Vonnegut introduces many reoccurring motifs to his readers. Time and the phrase, “So it goes” are two of the motifs that he incorporates throughout the novel, as well as the first chapter. Time represents how Vonnegut doesn’t really have a grasp on time and goes from one decade to another in the matter of sentences. He uses clocks throughout the chapter to represent time. Vonnegut states, “They had a horse-drawn wagon full of clocks” (14). The soldiers that took the clocks wanted others not to be able to know what time it was and keep them shut out of reality of the world. In the book time is nonexistent. Every most just is. "So it goes" represents no worried. The tralfadorians teach Billy to not worry or or even remember the bad moments in time because in another moment that bad thing is good. They use death as an example. They say not to morn for the dead because in another moment they are alive and well. For this reason, when someone dies Vonnegut states right after, "So it goes", to explain that the person is dead in this moment but not every moment in time.