Postmodern Film and Fiction
Dr. Kate Liu and Dr. Wen-chi Lin
April 19, 2000
Memory and History in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five
1. Report on Chapter One through Four
2. Author figures in this novel:
-- The novel is a blend of fiction and non-fiction (sci-fi), Vonnegut's narration can be seen as both third person and first person. The majority of the novel is written in third person, with Vonnegut narrating Billy's life.
--The fist chapter is an overture that introduces themes, characters, and certain verbal fragments that will reappear in Billly's part of the novel.
a. Chapter One: first person narrator (Kurt Vonnegut)
b. Billy Pilgrim
II. History and Memory:
A. Structure: "a circular pattern"
1. Time: non-linear narrative
a. The author is stuck in time.
--"The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks" (20).
--"I was there" (67).
b. "Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time" (23).
--Billy's life is presented as a series of episodes without any chronological orders.
-- Name: Billy Pilgrim is really a man on a journey through time, a pilgrim.
2. Billy's story of Tralfamadorians and time travels
1. Billy's story of the Tralfamadorians is a way that Billy uses to escape the reality of the war and the bombing.
2. "escape," "imagination," "survivor," "fatalism," "free will"
3. "So it goes."
C. Techniques (cinematic): parallel, juxtaposition, montage, kaleidoscopic, spatial-form
D. Revisit the past:
1. "Our contemporary social system has lost its capacity to know its own past, has begun to live in 'a perpetual present' without depth, definition, or secure identify" (Jameson).
2. "We went to the New York World's Fair, saw what the past had been like, according to the Ford Motor Car company and Walt Disney, saw what the furture would be like, according to General Motors. And I asked myself, about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep" (18).
III. Conclusion: (The title page and subtitle)
Vonnegut is inspired by the Biblical story of Lot's wife looking back at the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. He loves "her for that, because it was so human" (22; ch. 1). He begins to teach us a moral lesson of war: it's wrong and stupid but we must accept it in order to go on with our lives. Just looking at the subtitle of the book, "The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death" we peer into Vonnegut's personal view of life, death, and war. Soldiers are not soldiers but children that have an obligation, or "duty", to go to war, the "dance of death."