Critics of Kurt Vonnegut’s are unable to agree on what the main theme of his novel Slaughterhouse Five may be. Although Vonnegut’s novels are satirical, ironical, and extremely wise, they have almost no plot structure, so it is hard to find a constant theme. From the many people that the main character Billy Pilgrim meets, and the places that he takes us, readers are able to discern that Vonnegut is trying to send the message that there will always be death, there will always be war, and humans have no control over their own lives.
Most of the book is the narrative from Billy Pilgrim a unique character who has the ability to become “unstuck in time”, which means that he can uncontrollably drift from one part of his life to another “and the trips aren’t nessicarilly fun”. The whole books is organized in the same way Billy moves in time. In consists of numerous sections and paragraphs strung together in no chronological order, seemingly at random. The whole narration is written in the past tense, so that the reader cannot identify where the author’s starting point is. This aspect of the book is almost identical with the Tralfamadorian type of book:
“There isn’t any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that,when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and suprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.”
I agree with Mark Vit when he says that the most often expressed theme of the book is that we, as people, are “bugs in amber”. The phrase first appears when Billy is kidnapped by the Tralfamacorian flying saucer:
“Welcome aboard, Mr. Pilgrim.” said the loudspeaker. ‘Any questions,?’
Billy licked his lips, thought a while, inquired at least: ‘Why me?’
That is a very Earthling quest...
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... 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”.
Because of passages like this, many people are able to draw inferences to an almost spiritual quality in the book. The ideas that the Tralfamadorians hold defiantly point to predestination and maybe even a type of eternal life.
So what was Vonnegut trying to say to us? That it does not matter what we do in our lives because they will end up the say way regardless? Several people have read the book and come away with that message.
Regardless of Vonnegut’s intent, his final product was a book about the absurdity of war and death. Someone may live a noble life or be a war hero, but in the end, they will die, and the war will go on. It is futile to try and change the cycle. Read Full Essay Click the button above to view the complete essay, speech, term paper, or research paper