Dr. Kate Liu and Dr. Wen-chi Lin
Fragments of Identities in North American Postmodern Fiction and Film
19 April 2000
Tralfamadore: the voice of the author in Slaughterhouse Five?
Tralfmadore is one of the place where Billy Pilgrim had traveled around and learned the theory of the time and space, which is far different from the earthling thoughts. Therefore, what Tralfmadore people showed as not only the avant-grade concept of the time within one human beingˇ¦s life but also revealed the possibility of the variation of the author. In the following, I want to discuss this very issue of which the voice in the Tralfmadore flying saucer and zoo could be interpreted as the form or representation of the voice of the author god in this novel.
In this novel, we have perceived that there are at least three or four shadows of the authors: Yon Yonson, Billy Pilgrim, Kilgore Trout, and Vonnegut himself. Besides these presumptive four authors or surrogate ones, these authors separately presented their own mini-narratives with the grand narrative of Vonnegutˇ¦s novel. When Billy was kidnapped by Tralfmadore and taken into the flying saucer, the voice, which omnisciently spoke to Billy, might be one voice of the author as well as other three or four. Through the speaker on the wall, the unknown Tralfmadore ˇ§by the mean of a computer and a sort of electric organˇ¨ could demand and ask Billy questions. The absence of the visible body or the speaker conceals his or her own identity and reduces into the generalized form of Tralmadore or alien to the earthlings and to the listeners. Furthermore, the absence of the speaker shows his or superiority and omniscient power to the readers, the characters within the novel; in the other words, this speaker could be interpreted as the substitute author.
For example, Billy asked the speaker about why they chose him as the target of the kidnap; however, the speakers articulated and reply the answer: ˇ§This is a very Earthling question to ask, Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because the moment simply isˇ¨ (76-7). This rhetorical question implies the self-reflection or self-discovery of life in human world. This reply might also condensate the criticism / the questions to the very essential theme related to the individual which is rarely raised and pointed out in the other text in the past.
In addition to the customs of the Traflmadore, as for the habit of reading ˇ§books,ˇ¨ the concept of a book or a text in Traflmadore planet is not similar to the conventional form of Earthling literary texts or narratives, but a little bit close to the theory or the concept of the ˇ§meta-fiction,ˇ¨ which explicated the theory and the criticism within a literary text: ˇ§There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no cause, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at the timeˇ¨ (88). For this part of the novel, the speaking voice again represents the voice of the author / the position of the critics to interpret and to explicit the innovative/ deconstructive concept of structure of the text or a novel.
To sum up, the absence of identity of the speaker / Traflmadore to the readers is a skillful way to speak for the author and to surrogate the authorˇ¦s identity into the text. In order to explicit one concept which is not easily accepted by the common readers, the author of Slaughterhouse Five had to use a symbolic character to represent for his own aim of the novel.