Determinism in Slaughterhouse-Five by Billy Pilgrim

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Determinism, particularly pre-determinism, states that the origin of creation controls when and why all events of the past, present, and future occur, which decisively contradicts the belief in free will of the majority of humans in today’s society. Slaughterhouse-Five follows the life of Billy Pilgrim, a young man who has become “unstuck” in time. The novel traces Billy’s experiences during the bombing of Dresden in World War II, an encounter with extraterrestrials, called Tralfamadorians, and throughout his domestic life as a father, husband, and optometrist. In particular, Kurt Vonnegut explores the bombing of Dresden and the effects thereof on Billy Pilgrim, forming Billy into an apparently insane character who speaks of extraterrestrials and time travel. In Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut questions the practicality of attempting to express free will in society and emphasizes the importance of the present moment as opposed to the past and future through the characterization of Billy Pilgrim, the manipulation of time throughout the plot and the deterministic ideals of extraterrestrials.
Vonnegut’s characterization of Billy Pilgrim as extremely passive and almost helpless constructs a central theme to the novel, questioning the application of free will in the human lifestyle. While Vonnegut does not directly characterize Billy as an isolated and passive character throughout Slaughterhouse-Five, he does provide the reader with a rather distinct set of events that reveal the extent to which Billy has become disconnected from the rest of the world. Other characters throughout the novel view Billy as weak and undesirable, causing Billy to take on an attitude of detachment. Upon discovery of extraterrestrial life and the existen...

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