One of the main themes in Vonnegut’s book is the phrase “So it goes.” The main character in the book, Billy Pilgrim, uses this term whenever a character dies. His reasoning for using this term is out of the ordinary, Pilgrim claims he was abducted by an alien race called the “Tralfamadorians” who utter the phrase each time someone dies. Pilgrim explains,
When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is ‘So it goes.’” (34)
Although Pilgrim claims that the Tralfamadorians are who taught him this life lesson, it’s really just the fact that, through war, Billy Pilgrim has been desensitized to death. Deaths are insignificant when you’ve seen millions of unknown corpses, and even friends and family die, there’s nothing more than they’re dead. It’s noted by Billy Pilgrim’s daughter, Barbara, that he’d only began recalling that he’d been abducted by aliens after a fatal plane crash, in which he was the only survivor, attributing the delusions to brain damage (38). Desensitization is...
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...ite an anti-glacier book instead?’”
What he meant, of course, was that there would always be wars, that they were as easy to stop as glaciers. I believe that too.
And even if wars didn’t keep coming like glaciers, there would still be plain old death. (4)
He later recounted this to his old war buddy, Bernard V. O’Hare, and his wife, Mary O’Hare, when he was telling them about the book he planned to write about their experiences in Dresden (the events of the novel Slaughterhouse Five itself). Although Vonnegut may have agreed with Starr that war couldn’t be stopped, Slaughterhouse Five still managed to promote anti-war ideals.
Through revealing the harsh prisoner conditions, indirect promotion of anti-war ideals, and displaying the desensitization of soldiers to war in a creative way, Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse Five earned its place on the literary canon.
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