Slaughterhouse Five

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T: So just letting everyone know I was writing furiously, and coughing on my own spit trying to get all of my thoughts coherent and sent to Miranda.

Slaugterhouse Five is one of those books that I’m pretty neutral about. I mean, it was a pretty fast read especially when I consider it to be a bit in the “high literature” category. It was definitely not an easy read that is read for enjoyment, unless you like satirical novels. Either way it had a few humorous bits and furthered thinking about larger ideas, and themes if you will, about time and life.

When I was reading I noticed that I would glaze over some bits and have to re-read sections, and I’m not sure if it was because I wasn’t feeling Vonnegut’s style or if it was just really, really boring. All I know is somehow after all these little sections I somehow came out the end of the tunnel with some type of light bulb moment. Where I could see the connections of what I interpreted as Vonnegut expressing time and the meaning of life; or maybe life experiences is a better term. What I picked up were hints of how as a society we may be too caught up in the future and the meaning of this or that. Like how we over pick and overthink details. Think of the stereotypical scene of a girl trying to decipher what a text message means over the implied notion of a smiley face or a winky face. I think that we are not living in the moment and we fail to just be. There are tremendous Yoda-ish moments where it seems that Vonnegut, through created Aliens called Trafalmadorians, is encouraging us to just take each moment as it is and that time will continue through.

In all, I think Slaughterhouse can definitely be interpreted even more deeply or more shallowly depending on the reader and how in-depth and literal you want to take the book. For me I would give it a three out of five, but more because it’s just not my cup of tea. And I’m not going to bore you and continue on just to increase my word count. 

M: I’m going to go about this book a bit differently than Tiffanie did because I actually kind of really liked it. Quicky run down: The first chapter is Vonnegut telling us how he is trying to write a book about the bombing in Dresden during WWII because he was there but he really doesn’t know how to go about it. He tries to remember things about the war and yet nothing is substantial enough for him to write a book about so he sort of says how this book “Slaughterhouse Five” is going to be a crap shoot because he has just given up trying to write some amazing war story; “Slaughterhouse Five” actually turns into an amazing anti-war novel in my opinion. Anyway the next nine chapters are a story about Billy Pilgrim and the Tralfamadorians who are an alien race that abducts Billy. At points you would think Vonnegut is using the character of Billy to as a projection of himself but Vonnegut is sure to add little quips to separate Vonnegut and Billy even though they both witnessed the bombing of Dresden, “Somebody behind him in the boxcar said, ‘Oz.’ That was I. That was me.” (189). So heads up, Vonnegut is narrating the story of Billy Pilgrim.

I really liked this novel because it was so different from anything I’ve ever read before but as an English major this was something I absolutely loved – there were structural and stylistic points in the novel that I just drooled over (not literally though because that would ruin the book). For example lets talk about the alien race, the Tralfamadorians, ok they come out of no where and are really weird but the reason why they’re put into the novel is because they give Billy a way to cope with WWII and Dresden – their belief is that time is completely predetermined and that it’s pointless to try and change things; Billy adopts this and that’s where he gets the tag line “so it goes” (which is says after every death or mention of death in the novel). I’ve heard people say that they don’t like Billy because he’s too passive and just there rather than active in the novel, but I would argue that his character is written as such because of the adoption of the Tralfamadorian beliefs that you can’t change anything – therefore he’s mimicking that belief in not just his words but his actions.  

There were a couple of parts that were actually written in German that aren’t explained or given context so you have to look them up if you want to know what they say. I did look them up and his is something I thoroughly enjoy because it separates the passive (dare I say lazy) readers from the active/participatory readers and it adds an element to the story that wouldn’t be there if you didn’t look up the passages/words.

Anyway there were a lot of great things about the novel (the little song excerpts, the poem at the beginning, the dark humor, Vonnegut’s voice, the pictures, the time travel and out of order narration) and there were a lot of references that were mentioned previously that come back later on which you’ll probably miss the first time around.

Lastly before I go I’d like to say that at the end of the first chapter Vonnegut already tells you how the story of Billy Pilgrim will begin and how it will end – so pay attention to the middle, that’s what’s important.

Ok, talk to you all again on Tuesday,

BYYYYEEEEEEEE,

– Miranda & Tiffanie

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2 thoughts on “Slaughterhouse Five

  1. Hi M&T, I know this is a bit late… apologies, I have only just found your blog. I read this in January as well though, so it’s definitely justified.

    Like Tiffany, I felt quite neutral about it, I quite liked Vonnegut’s style (it is pretty distinctive), and lots of big themes were dealt with in a new and interesting way, but none of it really struck me. I might have to give it another go though, it seems like it might benefit from multiple readings, and maybe if I do then I will be a more active reader (I admit I read it quickly, and lazily).

    And to Miranda’s last point, knowing how it begins and ends for Billy Pilgrim gives a ‘Tralfamadorian’ knowledge and view of his life.

    • Don’t worry about the timing, we are always excited when we see some notification pop up! I might have to try re-reading it, or another or Vonnegut’s work to see if I judged too quickly. I am just now catching some similarities between Bunyan’s ‘A Pilgrim’s Progress’ (if you’ve read that) and Vonnegut’s. Thanks for the discussion and enjoy your travels!
      Tiffanie

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