Tuesday, December 2, 2008

First Thoughts of Slaughterhouse Five

I didn’t like the first chapter of Slaughterhouse Five where it was random stories of Vonnegut’s life. I think it was more like an autobiography. The book got better in the second chapter when we were introduced to Billy. It was kind of interesting how Billy was larger than Weary, but he let himself get pushed around. He even laughed when Weary was trying to beat him up. Billy had many unfortunate events happen in his life. He started as an optometrist but was later drafted into the army. After he lands in Germany, he gets stuck behind enemy lines without any gear. Billy then returns home and marries a woman and also has children. In 1968 he is in a plane crash and his wife dies while he is recovering.
I noticed that the motif time kept appearing throughout the chapters. The events in Billy’s life are all scattered throughout time. His experience with the aliens teaches him how time is not that important. People can’t ever die; they just “appear” to die. They are only in a “bad condition at that particular moment.” They are still going to be alive in the past.
Billy’s experience with the aliens and death also brings up another reoccurring motif in the book, “So it goes.” Vonnegut includes this term after each time a death is mentioned. Some examples were when Billy's father died in a hunting accident, when Billy is the only survivor of the plane crash, and when Billy's wife died of carbon monoxide poisoning.


  1. I noticed those motifs as well, but Billy wasn't bigger than Weary because Vonnegut describes that Weary was a really big guy, but billy was just tall and lanky like a skeleton. The motif of time, I believe, is probably the biggest motif in that Billy is living his life through a string of random events all leading him back to the war and eventually Dresden.

  2. I totally agree! I found the first chapter to drag on and on because there didn't really seem as if there was a story you could really get into. Like you said however, when the second chapter introduced Billy Pilgrim, the book got a lot more interesting. You actually had someone that you were going to follow through the book and here about experiences that they have. Great Job!

  3. Good job catching the motifs of the story. I, on the other hand, really liked the first chapter. It helped me to better understand the story by knowing where the author was coming from. It almost gave the story deeper meaning because of the war background of Kurt Vonnegut.

    One word that came to mind while I was reading the first chapter was Discourse (yes, I mean it to have a capital D). Discourse (uncapitalized) is just the words of the story. Discourse (capitalized) is the background behind the story--the author's life, historical background, etc. (That was my AP Comp shout-out of the day.) Knowing where the author was coming from helped to make his story more believable. Because Vonnegut actually experienced some of the same things as Billy Pilgrim and because Vonnegut is actually in the story, the reader is given the perspective of a knowlegeable author. For me, this gave the book more credability and allowed me to enjoy it, on one level, as more than a made-up story.