Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Essay

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Essay

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Slaughterhouse-five strives to remember the tragedy of the bombing of Dresden. Kurt Vonnegut constructs his novel around a main character who becomes “unstuck in time” (23). Billy Pilgrim’s life is told out of order, which gives him a different perspective than the rest of the world. Billy lives through his memories, and revisits events in his life at random times and without warning. Vonnegut introduces Billy Pilgrim to the Tralfamadorian way of thinking about memory and time so that he can cope with being unstuck in time. The Tralfamadorian ideology is set up as an alternative to the human ideology of life. In the novel Slaughterhouse-five, Kurt Vonnegut constructs a reality where memory is unproductive through the Tralfamadorian narrative. Vonnegut inserts the main character, Billy Pilgrim, into this world as a method of coping with the fact that he is unstuck in time. Billy accepts and celebrates the Tralfamadorian ideology, but Vonnegut does not. I argue that Vonnegut sets up the binary between the Tralfamadorian way of dismissing memory and the human way of depending on memory in order to illustrate that human beings are not able to accept the Tralfamadorian way of living. Throughout the novel, Vonnegut shows that remembering the past is in fact productive; it helps humans to understand the past and move forward. Vonnegut addresses the human condition and the importance of remembering by juxtaposing it with the Tralfamadorian perspective, which he argues cannot be adopted by humans.
Kurt Vonnegut develops the binary between the Tralfamadorian and human being ideologies of time, memory and life itself throughout the narrative. Vonnegut constructs a reality where memory, free will, and time are nonexistent and unproductive....


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... Tralfamadorian way of life is impossible for humans to achieve. Vonnegut rejects this way of life because we are unable to see things the way that the aliens do. We only see in three dimensions while the aliens see in four, therefore we are not able to fully live by their ways. Humans are weighed down by the fact that they should not be passive and accept things the way that they are. Humans must look towards the past, no matter the consequence, in order to better society in the future. The human condition is the fact that humans have agency and free will, but are not capable of controlling everything. Humans should accept the things they cannot change, change the things that they can, but should always be able to tell the difference (60). Vonnegut argues that human memory is productive and serves a purpose, for without it human’s would be doomed to repeat history.

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