Category Archives: Kurt Vonnegut

Thoughts: Slaughterhouse Five

Slaughterhouse-FiveSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Ladies and gentleman, welcome to this evening’s show! We are delighted, no, elated, to bring forth to you this wondrous human specimen for your viewing pleasure! Make of him what you will, but be warned…you will most likely be wrong.”

A tall, lanky man with overly exaggerated good posture lunged before the crowd from stage-right. His dark hair was cropped neatly against his scalp, his chest was slightly concave with snake-like arms reaching nearly to his knees. He was not an all together ill-proportioned sight since his legs seemed to stem from his sternum. If he would have placed his palm flush to his face, his fingers may have reached to the crown of his head and his feet were like skis. With each step he waved to different portions of the crowd; imparting a thin grin which bore no teeth. As he reached the master of ceremonies, a faint crush was heard below his frame. The beat of the crowd’s “Ooo’s” and “Ahhh’s” drummed in unbroken rhythm while the MC’s open arms and shiny smile embraced them without a twitch. The man had stepped on a large beetle and when he quickly and dramatically crossed himself, uttering “So it goes”, the crowd bellowed with laughter and applause.

The narrative of Slaughterhouse-Five was wildly entertaining. I don’t think I’ve ever taken a quirk-ridden piece as seriously as I had this. Kurt Vonnegut presents a new and somewhat tangible view of psychological derangement. The manifestation of Pilgrim’s derangement, at first, is nonsensical beyond the vague and meaningless statement that soldier’s get mentally scarred from enduring war. Yet we see a link between the Tralfamidorian’s non-linear perspective on time and how a soldier views his experiences from memory. Those wartime memories never cease to be real, since they are experienced over and over again, so time traveling through them is just as reasonable in explaining their reality as trying to convince oneself of their harmless existence in the past in order to crawl back into the safe, maternal arms of the present. The narrative, in its language and tone, mirrors this theme perfectly and playfully.

There were a couple things I haven’t worked out yet. The narrator, as a character, randomly appears in his own narrative which caused me to wonder how he knew so much about Billy Pilgrim’s life, since he had become a distant and meaningless prop in his own story, twice I think, and not just its teller. Also, the very last section of the book, which I will not ruin for you here, caused me to doubt assumptions I had made about the narrator’s role all together.

I must say, aside from the craftiness of the narrative, I found Slaughterhouse-Five descent but by no means amazing. For one who is always looking for a fresh voice and crafty prose, look no further.

Now I’ve finished my review. So it goes.

View all my reviews

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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Kurt Vonnegut


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