Slaughterhouse Five

Hannah Moye & Kayla Woodford


In the first chapter of Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut explains to the reader how hard it was for him to put on to paper what he had witnessed in the bombing of Dresden during World War II. For many years, said author was unable to create a book that would flow, and to the distaste of many, decided to make Slaughterhouse Five an anti-war novel. By telling the audience through his perspective of his story, Vonnegut is able to show the mental anguish the war caused him personally. By presenting such anguish, he is able to show his that he is not some prestigious writer that should be intimidating, but that Vonnegut is merely a man; his humility is also shown through his jumbled style of writing.


Vonnegut uses a number of polysyndenton sentences in the first chapter of his novel and therein is able to create the detached tone in which he writes. This dissociative tone is also seen through the parallelism he uses via parataxis structures. Being detached helps the author to indirectly back up his argument, which is that war destroys the human condition. Said argument is shown through the anecdote told about Vonnegut seeing a man after he had been crushed by a car. The author seemed to shrug such events off as they took place, for he had seen worse in the war, while his boss acted as if the man's death was just another news story, even though the dead man had a wife with a baby on the way. The anecdote appeals to the audience's sadness and pity.


As Vonnegut tells his audience in chapter one, the reader is able to expect a series of negative experiences about the war in Dresden to support Vonnegut's argument. In said chapter, it can be predicted that Vonnegut will argue the mental state and human condition war puts people in.


In Slaughterhouse Five, the author introduces his readers into various motifs, two of which being mustard gas and roses, as well as the phrase "so it goes." Mustard gas and roses is mentioned when Vonnegut is drinking his pain away. During such action, he tries to call up old war buddies in hopes of rekindle the fire of friendship that was once there, as well as in an attempt to see if his old buddy could remember anything about the war in Dresden; doing so, Vonnegut felt, would help him write his novel. The other motif, as was stated previously, is the phrase "so it goes." These three words possibly have the greatest impact on Slaughterhouse Five. "So it goes" is stated every time there is a death, which seems to add to Vonnegut's detached tone. Such a phrase seems so simple, being as how it is a mere three words, is quite profound and means so much: the end of a life.