Tuesday, March 22, 2016

"So short, jumbled, and jangled"

              It is difficult to decide how to read Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Is it science-
fiction? Is it auto-biographical in some way? No matter how seriously you take the Tralfamadorians, the anti-war sentiments in this novel are hard to miss. We've read about satirical anti-war themes in Lysistrata, but as Slaughterhouse Five was published during a time when protests against the Vietnam War were breaking out across the US, it becomes easy to see why the novel was banned. The "short, jumbled, and jangled" nature of the novel reflects many things about it. That a massacre in war is difficult to write about and that it was difficult for Vonnegut to write about, having been a witness to the actual, historical event. The many storylines and tangents in the novel can be confusing and disjointing, but bring the reader up close and personal with the real disorienting, strange, and devastating experience of being in a war. Billy Pilgrim is the example of innocence shifting to experience but the horror and shock of that experience is what causes him to have "adventures" in an alien world. It seems to me that these are hallucinations created to avoid facing the reality of his situation. The last name Pilgrim reflects that he is a man on a journey as he is wandering around in the past, present, and future as a POW. The "jumbled and jangled" -ness of the novel itself is also a description of Billy's life. In the novel the empty, dark world of war and the horrors that go along with it are contrasted with the innocent naïveté of Billy and his own mental defense mechanism. The theme that we have been seeing again and again in our class of innocence versus experience is again prevalent in this novel.
             This theme of innocent people being forced into a state of experience by witnessing the horrors of the world has not gone away in our day and age. Writing this blog on a day when we have all been reminded of the fragility of peace in a world where terrorism is a constant threat is a sign of that theme. In our class, we are constantly reminded that the controversial themes that we are reading, that caused our works to be banned, are problems that still plague our world today. Although Slaughterhouse Five is one of our more modern works, it's importance and power is still shown in its relevance to today. It is a reminder that like the novel itself and Billy's state of mind, our world is "so short, jumble and jangled".

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