“It is so short and jumbled and jangled, Sam, because there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre” (19). This is what Vonnegut tells us in the first pages of the book, a sort of apology for the chaotic, messy story to come. Like in Lysistrata, there is no good way to talk about the violent and senseless vulgarity of war, and any attempt to results in the upending of established norms. This violence is even more uncomfortable when read in context of the Tralfamadorians concept of time. If everything is predestined, then what justification does war have? This “paradox of free will” is a problem that many Christians face when attempting to explain an omniscient, omnipotent, and yet benevolent, God. When Billy is abducted by the Tralfamadorians, he asks them why they have picked him. The aliens respond, “That is a very Earthling question to ask, Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. […] we are […] trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why” (76-77).
The idea of predestination leads me to question many things, most recently the socioeconomic status of the children I’ve met volunteering in the library at Tunbridge. If there is a grand plan, one that is predetermined and cannot be changed, why is one child confined to a small library with books that are falling apart, while I had access to a library maybe three times the size of the one at Tunbridge when I was in elementary and middle school? It hurts me to think that some of these children will never make it out of the neighborhoods they were born in, simply because they don’t have enough time to read the books they so energetically picked out, because they have to help out their families after school or don’t have a safe place to sit down and read. If these children aren’t on a high enough level on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it would be understandably difficult to do well in school. How can you focus on reading when your family can’t pay the rent, when your cousin got shot two streets down from you? It’s situations like these that make me question why I have the life I do. If the Tralfamadorians are right and there is no timeline, all moments exist at the same time, and there is no control over them, then how did I get lucky enough to be an American upper middle class white girl with a loving family that has enough money to send me to a private college? Just like Billy Pilgrim, I am forced to ask the question, “Why me?”. What happens if we all accept the idea of predestination, as Billy eventually does, and surrender ourselves to the seemingly inevitable course of life?