"Heck no, Nancy!"
Explicating the War-Torn Mind of Slaughterhouse-Five
Pall Malls and a glass of Scotch for all my friends!
The difficulties – and probable impasses – Vonnegut faced when writing his novel are sharply and handsomely addressed. Not only are the physical problems addressed; as are the mental and emotional ones as well. Exposed is our narrator, Vonnegut – stunted with his own thoughts in his home in New York, circa post World War II, where a healthy sum of writers are telling campfire stories about their time in the war – 1969 —, expanding to us his timeline of the events and thoughts leading to the creation, and finally, the exposure of his novel. We are started with an exploration into the psyche of Vonnegut, as he intimately shows us his process of writing his book, and especially, the interactions and events that help shape it. It is expected to understand why Vonnegut wrote from his own narrative perspective in this first chapter. Naturally, one could reason that because this story is what it is – a view into a war-skied world, examining, quite deeply, the conflicts that are faced –, as this in itself creates its own form of visceral reasoning that causes a way of self-progression. Vonnegut has a certain je ne sais pas about his style – "jumbled and jangled", so it goes, as he shows a heavy use of a paratactical structure to generate a sort of hollowness to his voice and style.
This is a paragraph. About diction. About syntax. About rhythm.
A generous way to demystify Vonnegut's jagged, yet beautifully informal voice is to go into details concerning how he crafts his words into sentences that embody a sweeping range of moods, as well as how they plant a seed of emotion into the reader. Vonnegut does not show us a solid form of tone. The methods of which he creates and uses his tone are odd – we have come to a conclusion that his overarching tone is a hollow seriousness — it is airy, and it distorts itself to broaden to a variety of moods that branch from this. This airiness, as is persistent thus far, is easily identifiable by Vonnegut's utilization of the asyndeton and polysyndeton structures of syntax. These two structures, when narrated in a person's head, generally help to create an immersion into the author and their mind, in a way inaccessible than if they were unused.
And the thought died as the mind conjured a better one. So it goes.
Vonnegut tries to stir the reader into the direction that his book is going nowhere. Being rather blunt, he reveals a hidden insight in his story – which he slaved twenty-three years for to create, trying ever so hard to angelically craft his words into a beautifully disastrous story of his time in Dresden; however, he continues to show disapproval in his ability to fully capture his story. Vonnegut constantly feels that to write a story like this one, it is impossible to make it a masterpiece, as, what can you talk about a war? However, his book and his ideas do progress, and they progress into his idea that war has changed the way we view death. His trip with the Tralfamadorians has caused him to see the "truth" about it, and the two viewpoints collide and cause an intense internal conflict with Vonnegut.
I have a keyboard like that!
You know, war does things to a person – things far beyond my comprehension. "Mustard gas and roses," or at least the gas – the smell of Vonnegut's pitiful breath after he's been drinking – is a highly dangerous and painful gas. It generally causes intense pain and blisters to the exposed lungs and skin, easily causing death. Its smell is reminiscent to that of garlic or horse radish. The fact that he uses it to describe himself is rather interesting. Why would a veteran, who does not show any instance of post-war depression, in any verbal essence, relate himself to something that clearly is entangled into the defining package of war? Is it to indirectly show the reader that this war is still a prominent and reoccurring thought in his mind? And what about "So it goes"? This taunting sentence. This omnipresent deterent of flow. This elusive spectre of definition. What is it? We are revealed to its origin, and what it means. Although, we are not revealed to what it means in relation to its thread through the book. One may assume that, because the Tralfamadorians define death, in relation to time, as being another state of life – life being suspended in disanimation —, and how Vonnegut sees it as a beautiful philosophy, the fact that war heavily distorts the meaning of death intensely offsets him, and he knows that this philosophy is not widely connected through a mutual understanding for the entire world. In other words, who knows. The emblazoned motifs that leech themselves onto the story are beautifully integrated, as well as the syntax and diction through which these motifs are created with. This piece of Vonnegut's memory, as though serves him, is absolutely radiating in its meaning and emotion, and is masterfully artworked into something that has received unworldly praise, and it shall continue to do so.