The Falsity of Tralfamadore in Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five Essay

The Falsity of Tralfamadore in Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five Essay

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War: armed, hostile conflict between different groups with conflicting viewpoints. Though this simple definition may be acceptable to Merriam-Webster, war is a very controversial and complicated subject. Limiting war to the framework of a single definition would diminish the severity and complexity of the issue. Men and women who have engaged in combat often come home carrying a burden of grief and angst. Gruesome images of death or torture can be imprinted in these soldiers’ minds alongside a guilty conscience that may have accompanied their actions during the war. Learning how to deal with these stresses can be extremely difficult. Such is the case for Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist in Kurt Vonnegut’s masterpiece Slaughterhouse Five. Following a plane crash, Billy claims to have traveled to Tralfamadore, a planet far, far away from Earth. The Tralfamadorians teach Billy that free will is only a figment of the human imagination. Even in fiction, meeting little green aliens seems pretty far-fetched, so did Billy really venture through time to see these creatures? No. Billy’s exploits with the Tralfamadorians were all in his mind. Due to brain damage, post-traumatic stress from the war, and reading many science fiction novels, Billy has confused his dreams and coping mechanisms with reality.
All throughout the book, Billy allegedly time-travels to various points in his timeline. Though many authors have written about time-travel since H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine, in Slaughterhouse Five no such time-travel truly occurs. In Billy Pilgrim’s world, Kilgore Trout has written a great deal about time-travel. In fact, Kilgore Trout was “Billy’s favorite living author and science fiction became the only sort of tales [Billy] could read” ...


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...ormer soldier with symptoms of PTSD, an explanation for why war must happen. Perhaps Vonnegut included these stories to paint a picture of how war takes the human out of humanity. Maybe the Tralfamdorians functioned to encourage people not to focus on the evil in the world. Could they have been used to show that there is nothing that actually exists to help soldiers deal with war? Maybe the only way to cope is to imagine something greater, something beyond human perception, because there is nothing intelligible to say about massacre is there? Nothing but the songs of modern dinosaurs.
“Poo-tee-weet?”


Works Cited
Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-five, Or, The Children's Crusade: A Duty-dance with Death. New York, NY: Dell, 1991. Print.
Staff, Mayo Clinic. "Definition." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 08 Apr. 2011. Web. 28 Nov. 2013.

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