5/10-11 Slaughterhouse V, Chapter 5

If you are commenting to earn credit for a discussion where you didn’t contribute any words, then please read this: you should not simply restate or agree with something we said in class. Say something new or build on something that was said in class. The job is to THINK about the text and share that thinking –not to take up air space.

Tuesday is a reading day for Chapter 5, and then we’ll discuss it on Wednesday.

Remember there is a reading quiz.

For your lab book, I’m going to ask you to read for SONIC DEVICES. You can see these explained¬† in your study guide in the “about chapter 5” section: alliteration, assonance, consonance, synasthesia, and onomatopoeia. Try to find an example of each (that isn’t the same as the one on the handout). Then talk about what it means–why did Vonnegut use it and what does it do for the text? Again, there are samples of this in the study guide.

At the end of your examples & analysis, theorize a little bit about why a writer of PROSE might be spending so much energy on SOUND devices more typically found in poetry.


9 thoughts on “5/10-11 Slaughterhouse V, Chapter 5

  1. I find it very ironic that after visiting the planet of the Tralfamadorians and learning that, essentially, free will is pointless due to the fact that each moment exits in order occur how it’s structured to occur. What I find ironic about this is that Billy, after learning this, uses his free will to try to teach the people on earth that free will is pointless, only to be rejected.

    • Going off of the subject of free will, I think it’s interesting how Vonnegut writes about free will so frequently but then reinforces the idea that everything is predestined. How can you have free will (and have it matter) if everything is already decided? Even the Tralfamadorians note that only Earthlings speak about free will. As humans, we like the idea that we can do what ever we want. Doing whatever it is we want also plays a part in starting wars that for example, Billy doesn’t even have a choice to fight in. He is a terrible soldier but even if he tried to be a good one he could still die (most likely) against his will. So, I think what Vonnegut is trying to say is all of this free will we think we have is all an illusion.

  2. I think the Englishmen represent what war is portrayed as while the Americans represent the reality of war. The Englishmen are basically just boy scouts, while the Americans are war torn even though some (like Billy) hardly even saw combat before they were captured. The Germans love the Englishmen because they fit every stereotype of Englishmen possible. The Englishmen contrast the American soldiers, who are poorly fed, poorly trained, exhausted, and poorly prepared for war. This is ironic because the healthiest soldiers in the war are not doing any of the fighting.

  3. I agree with what James said but something else that I thought about is why the Germans liked the Englishmen because unlike them most of the Germans have seen actual combat and the Hell that it actually is, like the Americans have so at first I kind of was confused cause you would think that the Englishmen’s arrogance of the war would kind of make the Germans angry but it doesn’t, and I think that’s because the Germans aspire to be like the Englishmen and that’s why they treat them so much better than everyone else because in there minds they think that the Americans are being weak by not being like the Englishmen.

  4. The English pow’s represent adulthood, and the Americans represent babies, which is ironic because you’d expect the people who haven’t experienced war yet (English) to be the babies and the ones who have gone through war (Americans) to be adults. This reminds me of when Billy watched the war movie in reverse- it seems that experienced and confident people who go through the horrors of war emerge as scared little children incapable of participating in society (due to ptsd). But this is in contrast with the child crusade idea where people who go to war start out as babies, so would that mean people who never go to war live their whole lives as babies?

    • I think that it was Vonnegut is criticizing. As a society we are like “man up” or “grow a pair”. Throughout history fighting in war was considered manly and tough and Vonnegut is criticizing that exception of the men who went through war as adults, all grown-up. I think this goes hand in hand with idea of free will. When he is drugged and dreaming, he does not know he is getting raped because he is asleep. I think that that shows how we are almost tricked into thinking we have free will (dream) but really we aren’t. I think that is what Vonnegut is saying about the dresden firebombings, man is inherently good, but easily swayed into doing terrible things, losing free will.

  5. The idea that we don’t have free will and that things just happen and there is no prevention is an idea that pops up many times in this story. The Tralfamadorians, Billy and even the German man who said “Vy you?, Vy anyody?” are all showing this ideology.

    At first we want to think this is the message the author is trying to convey, that there is no prevention of future events, but this isn’t the message. In class we asked about why the author would even write an anti-war book when he thinks it’s a failure and that wars will always happen anyway. The answer is that the author is lying to us. He doesn’t actually think the book will be a failure and he doesn’t believe that the future is set in stone. If he did believe these things, then there would actually be no point to writing the story.

    When I read the part about the fuel explosion and the end of the universe I thought “Why would they still let it happen?” Maybe that is a very ‘human’ thought, according to the story, but we are humans after all. It’s almost Ironic the way Vonnegut sends us one message over and over, yet he wants us to not accept that message and instead embrace the complete opposite message. For us the past has happened, the present is happening and the future is still up to us.

  6. The passage with Paul Lazzaro’s broken arm identifies the Englishmen as the movie watchers of war. The Englishmen’s thoughts that even the weakest soldiers can still put up a good fight and that they are strong even through the difficulties. When they find out the truth even after seeing the poor Americans by breaking Lazzaro’s arm they try to get them away as soon as possible. The Englishmen cannot stand the truth of war and attempt to see the lies whenever they can.

  7. Something I noticed was the theme of futility throughout the book. One example of this is when the German guard beats the American prisoner, then says “Vy you? Vy anybody?” The American prisoner wasn’t beaten because of fate or destiny, but simply because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, which could be said about anybody’s suffering. There is no real why, it just happens- hence the “so it goes” motif. I think the theme of futility is also conveyed through the lack of any real beauty in the book. The British took care to keep themselves clean, organized, and even living in an almost luxurious manner. They have a banquet hall that includes candles and soap in each place, things we typically associate with light and cleanliness. However, the candles and soap are made from the fat of murdered people, nullifying any beauty they had. This leads to the conclusion that it is futile to attempt to find anything truly beautiful in war.

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