In this essay I will be stylistically analysing an extract from Chapter 3 of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel; Slaughterhouse Five. I am particularly interested in the effects different perspectives have throughout my extract, as well as the effects of the narrative structure and if it conforms or diverges from the typical models of narrative structure. I am also going to be analysing the characterisation of different figures in my extract and the impressions these give on the characters. I will also be looking at how dialogue is represented and the overall effects of different devices. I am expecting to find that Vonnegut uses a mixture of different perspectives throughout which may be difficult to extract from each other. I also expect to find that Vonnegut generally complies with the usual narrative structure, however I would not be surprised to find some divergence.
Firstly I will discuss the representation of dialogue in my extract. The only two people to engage in any conversation are Wild Bob and Billy. When the arguably mentally as well as physically unstable Wild Bob first speaks, he speaks directly to Billy. ‘You one of my boys?’ (Vonnegut 1969: 55). However, rather than replying; Billy stays silent. ‘Billy didn’t reply.’ (Vonnegut 1969: 55). This could be viewed as Billy flouting Grice’s maxim of quantity as he is not providing the right amount of information Wild Bob is looking for; he is withholding participation in the conversation. This unwillingness to participate suggests that Billy may not know the answer or is not confident enough to answer the posed question. This is reiterated when we are told ‘The question made no sense’ (Vonnegut 1969: 55) This withholding of participation results in a pause causing Wild Bob to reph...
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...aracter wishes to distance themselves from the situation. The use of first person however, contradicts this idea and shows that the character is definitely cemented in the story. Farrell (2009: 352) explains that this method of inserting biography into perhaps prevents readers from easily dismissing the events Vonnegut describes. The first person narrative therefore reminds the reader that the events were in fact reality and suggests the fiction has an intimate connection with the narrators own life.
Farrell, S. (2009) ‘Critical Companion to Kurt Vonnegut’, Critical Companions Series, New York, Infobase Publishing
Tooan, J.M. (2001) ‘Narrative: A Critical Linguistic Introduction’, illustrated, reprint, revised, The Interface Series, London, England, Psychology Press
Vonnegut, K. (1969) Slaughterhouse-Five, Vintage Edition, London, England: Vintage
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