Futile Search for Answers in Slaughterhouse Five

Futile Search for Answers in Slaughterhouse Five

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Futile Search for Answers in Slaughterhouse Five

 

The book, Slaughter House-Five, written by Kurt Vonnegut, is based on the main character named Billy Pilgrim who is a little "lost" in the head. Billy is always traveling to different parts of his life and rarely in the present state. Throughout the book Billy mainly travels back and forth to three big times in his life. In each different time period of Billy's life he is in a different place; his present state is in a town called Illium and his "travels" are to Dresden and Tralfamadore. When Billy is in Illium he is suppose to have a "normal" life; he is married, has two children, and works as an optometrist. Then Billy travels back to Dresden where he was stationed in the last years of WWII and witnessed the horrible bombing. When Billy travels to Tralfamadore he is in an "imaginary" state, everything that happens to him is more like a dream. Through Billy's travels in time he shows that he is striving to find meaning in the events that happened in his life that he is afraid to acknowledge. As Billy says himself, "All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist," (1) this just proves even further that fact that Billy cannot ever forget any event in his life.

 

The main event that leads Billy to all his confusion is the time he spent in Dresden and witnessed the fire-bombings that constantly pop in his head along with pictures of all the innocent people Billy saw that fled to Dresden the "safe spot" from the war before the bombing. When Billy sees the faces of the innocent children it represents his fear of the situation. Billy can't acknowledge the fact that they were innocent and they were killed by Americans, Americans soldiers just like himself. The biggest issue  Billy cannot come to grasp with is why the bombings took place. That question has no answer; it's just something that happened that Billy couldn't get over. During all Billy's travels back to Dresden he couldn't change what had really happened there although that was the closure he was looking for. Dresden purely represents Bill's past and fears of the truth about what happened.

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Even in Billy's everyday "normal" life in Illium little things reminded him of Dresden. For instance, one day Billy was driving down the road and it was a scene of desolation and Billy thought, "It looked like Dresden after it was bombed-like the surface of the moon," (2). Illium also reminds Billy of the war because Billy's wife died there and death brings him tears, tears that go back to Dresden and all the deaths that happened in Dresden. Billy often finds himself "weeping instead of sleeping," (3) which doesn't allow Billy to be happy and prosper in Illium. Even though Billy was born in Illium and grew up there, got married there, raised his children there, he still cannot live there in the present because his present is his past in so many ways.

 

When Billy travels to his "imaginary" state he travels to a place called Tralfamadore. In Tralfamadore Billy meets these creatures that are called Tralfamadorians, "they were two feet high, and green ...their suction cups were on the ground, and their shafts, which were extremely flexible, usually pointed to the sky;" (4). Tralfamadore is like traveling to the future for Billy who is trying to get as far away from his past as he can. In is head Billy has made this place an "ideal society," the Tralfamadorians have knowledge, insight, and beliefs that are stunning and though provoking; "When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments," (5) this is just on example of how stunning the Tralfamadorians beliefs are. When Billy talks about Tralfamadore he says, "The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral," (6)

 

What Billy saw during his six months on the battlefield and in Dresden as a prisoner still dominates his life. He has no escape, past, present, future, Dresden; Dresden will always exists in every moment of time Billy travels through. Billy's prescription for dealing with time is not dealing with it at all. He has to way to deal with it he is "unstuck in time, in 1944, when WWII was in progress," (7) he is spastic in time and no prescription to cure it. As Billy continues to travel from time to time and place to place he will continue to strive to find the meaning of the events that happened in his life that he is still afraid to acknowledge.

 
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