What is Vonnegut really saying?
For the first time in a really long time, I don't have much to say. I find myself confused between what I thought was clearly the message of Slaughterhouse Five, and the discussions we had this past week.
I thought that Slaughterhouse Five clearly showed the effects of war and how it cannot be reversed, can never be properly addressed, and most certainly, that the very root of the problem, which is war itself, can never be stopped. This was done by what appeared to a lack of structure, by the juxtaposition of Billy Pilgrim's so-called "time travels" and his reality, by the clever invention of Tralfamadorians and what they have to say. It seemed as if on the outside, Billy Pilgrim has gotten over what he has seen at war, by merely saying "So it goes" for every death he has to encounter or remember, relive. In reality, however, he still cannot escape his tragic past, and the way which he copes with it is by imagining this world of Tralfamadore, where everything already exists, has already happened, where he is not accountable for anything he had no power over, and where the inhabitants seem to be nonchalant about even the most devastating events like death, because there's no other way to correct, alter or change them. Tralfamadore was his escape, where he need not feel guilty for how he felt, being unable to stop the bombing in Dresden. I thought the message was to show that these are inescapable effects of war, that there is no way of changing it, just as his imagined world of Tralfamadore perceives time and events.
I'm starting to believe otherwise, though. After our discussions this past week, I'm convinced that maybe, if his satire and irony are not received and digested properly, that's what it seems to be saying. But digging a little deeper makes you realize that he wants you to do something about it. Maybe he wrote the book in such a way, making everything seems so final, so miniscule, in order to evoke a multitude of emotions in his reader, and enough of them to actually make us do something. In example, by saying "so it goes" after every story of a death, the audience disagrees with the nonchalance he shows, which may also be mirroring how deaths during war are treated and perceived, and wants to do something about it. I think that is what both froggies and I felt. He makes Billy Pilgrim so obedient, passive, and so damn boring so that the audience will be inspired to something about wars, about just agreeing with them and not stopping them from happening, stopping the creation of men like Billy Pilgrim, and perhaps, no one has to ever feel like how Billy Pilgrim, and thus, Kurt Vonnegut, felt even several decades after the war.