Post-Modern Interpretation of Slaughterhouse-Five Meaning Essay
- Length: 4 pages
- Sources: 2
- Subject: Literature
- Type: Essay
- Paper: #4683318
Excerpt from Essay :
Reason tells him that there must be something else, still to come, while he is fighting to stay alive and keep feeling.
The author points out that, at some point, he decided to write the book as a "Children's Crusade," as the opposite of every past attempt to present war as something other that what is should be: the worst and most hideous manifestation of the constant of death in humanity's life. Death as a consequence of mass murder becomes monstrous and inexcusable because it is inflicted by human beings upon their fellow human beings with premeditation, in the name of some ideology.
Peter Barry underlines that according to Baudrillard, the distinction between what is real and imagined or illusion is no longer present, because of the new technology that surrounds us. Disneyland is an example that supports the theory that "real is no longer real" (Slaughterhouse Five, p. 89). This is one of the features that make this amusement park a postmodern form of art. On the other hand, the author in Slaughterhouse Five makes his readers aware that he is trying to present them with something else than a hollow form, the result of an artist's interpretation of an event or a concept: "We went to the New York's World Fair, saw what the past had been like, according to the Ford Motor Car Company and Walt Disney, saw what the future 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" (Slaughterhouse Five, 23). History aims at reviving past events, but the contemporary historian cannot present them as one who was present there and recorded them on the spot; and even then, his or her renderings would be subjective and tributary to the purpose of the records he or she is keeping.
Chapter one seems central to understanding the way the story developed and proves that the writer did not choose to send it in the air as another postmodern novel that will puzzle critics and readers alike and will remain open to interpretation as long as people will have imagination. However, besides being a man who fought in World War Two and lived through its horrors, a man who is trying to recapture some of those events, the author is also a writer, an artist. Since he did not loose his mind completely after the war, the fact that he is still able to laugh when, after many years, he was going back to Europe, gives the story a sense of reality that is more than anything else in the book can say. The creative mind of the writer was able to work in spite of what he had been through. By the end of the first chapter, the fiction that will alternate with real life is announced already: "The time would not pass & #8230; There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling, I had to believe whatever clocks said- and calendars" (Slaughterhouse Five, p. 26).
Billy Pilgrim, the main character of the rest of the novel, symbolizes the character that the author of the first chapter seems to have chosen to represent him when relating to his own past and experiences. Nevertheless, the author still signals his presence as himself thorough some well placed recurring sentences he was careful to enounce in the first chapter. One of them is: "So it goes" and it is usually accompanying an event related to death or destruction.
Pilgrim is a postmodern character in many respects. Since "Postmodernity & #8230; 'deconstructs' the basic aim of the Enlightenment, that is 'the idea of a unitary end of history and of a subject'" (Beginning Theory, p. 82) and our anti-hero's end happens according to his own prediction, he becomes a surreal being in a surreal world.
The way to cope with reality is in postmodernism the tendency to avoid it by presenting it in a fragmentary style, alternating it with imaginary stories and characters. Vonnegut chose for his own representation an unlikely character, Billy Pilgrim, who is indeed a pilgrim in time and space and sometimes in his own mind.
Barry, Peter. Beginning theory: an introduction to literary and cultural theory. Manchester University Press, 2002
Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-five:…