Theme Of Free Will In Kirk Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five

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In the novel Slaughterhouse Five Kirk Vonnegut presents a timeless antiwar story where the narrator and the main character Billy Pilgrim relive various moments in World War II and Billy's struggles between fate and free will. The main character Billy Pilgrim learns from the Tralfamadorians that the idea of free will is an idea only unique to human beings and throughout the war uses the idea of having no free will to shape his experiences regarding aging, death, and pain. Throughout the course of the novel Billy Pilgrim suffers from being stuck in time which causes the constant time traveling of the novel. After being kidnapped by Tralfamadorians Billy learns the ideas of free will is a thought that only earthlings have. “If I hadn't spent so much time studying Earthlings,' said the Tralfamadorian, I wouldn't have any idea what was meant by "free will.” I've visited thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied reports on one hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will”(41). Billy Pilgrim becomes aware of the fact the events of his life are predestined and the fact that the aliens have the ability to see all events at one time supports Vonnegut's beliefs of having no free will. The Tralfamadorians are able to see the past, present, and future all at one time in comparison to humans who are only capable of seeing and living a single moment. Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were the past, the present and the future” (30). Their concept of time does not move in a linear progression but in a continual progression. The perception of the Aliens suggest that human beings are cramped in time and once the moment they experience at a particular time passes in essence it is gone ... ... middle of paper ... ...e argued the conscious delay, was likely due to the activity of a higher level of higher control areas that were in preparation for an upcoming decision way before it moved into conscious awareness. "At some point, things that are predetermined are admitted into consciousness” (Haynes). This studies reveals that fact that although we may be unaware the notion of free will is prevalent throughout everyday life in the actions we believe we choose to do. Through out the novel Vonnegut presents the concepts of predestination along with the reality of free will and uses the ideas and actions of Billy Pilgrim along with some other characters to express these ideas as well as his antiwar opinions. He successfully utilizes Billy Pilgrim to illustrate how war can alter the human mind as well as experiences. He uses Billy to show that we are all slaves of time. So it goes.

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