Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five: Literary Analysis

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“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” As the renowned scientist Albert Einstein stated, the lack of free will can be highly detrimental to society. This principle is also emphasized in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, in which the main character, Billy Pilgrim, is involved in a plane crash. This accident further unsettles his mental condition, in addition to his experiences in World War II. This causes Billy to imagine about an alien planet called Tralfamadore, where they believe that all incidents in time are structured and that free will has no impact on the future. They also claim that damaging events such as war cannot be prevented. Through the use of diction and irony, Vonnegut reveals that one must utilize free will in order to overcome the destructive inclinations of humankind. One element of literature that Vonnegut uses to emphasize his theme regarding free will is diction. When Billy is on Tralfamadore, he asks how the Universe will end, to which the alien guide responds, “We blow it up, experimenting with new fuels for our flying saucers” (149). The use of the word “experimenting” shows the nonchalant attitude that the Tralfamadorians have regarding their destruction and their belief that moments in time cannot be altered,…show more content…
Through the portrayal of the Tralfamadorian principles regarding the predestined nature of all events in time and Billy’s naive belief in these notions, Vonnegut shows that humankind can improve the future through purposeful actions in the present. He also emphasizes the dangers of complacency through Billy’s gullible and apathetic character. Vonnegut shares his contempt of complacency with Albert Einstein, as well as the view that the exertion of free will can bring greater peace to the
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