Kurt Vonegut Mezbaha 5
Kurt Vonnegut


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16.11.2016


  Editörün Notu:  Savaş tarihinin en korkunç kitle imhalarından biri olan 2. Dünya Savaşındaki Dresden bombardımanında Japonya'ya atılan iki atom bombasından daha fazla insan öldürülmüştü. Üstelik bu şehrin ne bir askeri ne de bir jeopolitik önemi vardı. 135,000 kişi öldürüldü. Olayı birebir yaşayan kitabın yazarı Kurt Vonnegut bu dehşeti ancak 25 yıl sonra kaleme alabildi. Kitap, Tralmafadorlular tarafından kaçırılarak dördüncü boyuta geçirilen masum bir "zaman gezgini" saf  Billy Pilgrimin hayatından, atlamalarla, geçmiş ve gelecekten kesitler aktararak ilerler. Dresden'deki 5 numaralı Mezbaha'da tutulan Amerikan savaş esirleri arasında olan Billy, gökten yağan cehennem ateşi altındaki bombardımandan sağ kurtulur. Ancak kitap bir yandan savaşın korkunç bir zaman dilimine tanıklık ederken diğer yandan, insancıllığı ve kara mizahı da elden bırakmaz.

  Dresden bombardımandan önce   Dresden bombardımandan sonra
 


https://www.dostyayinevi.com

Kurt Vonnegut'un İkinci Dünya Savaşı deneyimlerinin benzersiz bir dökümü Mezbaha No. 5. Dresden bombardımanını yaşayan ünlü yazar, savaşın anlamsızlığını birçok yazınsal türün iç içe geçtiği bu kıyametsi anlatıda öykülüyor. Kitabın başkişisi Billy Pilgrim'in boşlukta süzülen yaşamı, savaşın anlamsızlığının ve ölçüsüzlüğünün metaforik bir anlatımı. Billy'nin zamanda yolculuğuyla katmanlar arasındaki geçişleri iyiden iyiye belirsiz kılan Vonnegut, insan eliyle yaratılmış bu benzersiz felaketi insan uygarlığının tüm kazanımlarıyla boy ölçüştürdüğü alegorik bir karşı söylence yaratıyor. Vonnegut'un aşağı yukarı tüm yapıtlarında kurmaca bir kişinin benliği altına gizlediği kendi varlığı Mezbaha No. 5'te de o gizemli kişilik göçünün tüm parıltısını yayıyor.

KURT VONNEGUT (1922 - 2007)
ABD'nin Indianapolis kentinde doğdu. II. Dünya Savaşı'nda bir ara Almanlara esir düştü. Chicago Üniversitesi'nde antropoloji öğrenimi gördükten sonra bir süre gazetecilik ve reklam yazarlığı yaptı. Çoğu biyografik birçok eserinde ortaya koyduğu saçma ve anlamsız evren tasarımıyla hem özel bir söyleyiş yarattı hem de tüm zamanların en direşken muhaliflerinden biri oldu. Eserlerinden yapılan film uyarlamaları da büyük bir ilgiyle karşılandı. Yetmişli yılların ilk yarısından itibaren çevrilen çok sayıda yapıtıyla Türkiye'de de iyi tanınan Vonnegut'un şimdiye dek Dost Kitabevi Yayınları tarafından Ölümden Beter Yazgılar, Hokus Pokus, Kodes Kuşu, Kedi Beşiği, Maymun Evine Hoş Geldiniz, Mavi Sakal, Galapagos, Allah Senden Razı Olsun Bay Rosewater ve Şampiyonların Kahvaltısı başlıklı kitapları yayımlandı.


kindle günlüğü

4 Şubat 2013 Pazartesi
Mezbaha No 5 – Kurt Vonnegut

Uzun süredir okumak istediğim yazarın, sevdiğim konulardan biri olan, ikinci dünya savaşı üzerine kurulmuş bir romanı bu. Kitabın başında kısa bir süre hikayeyi anlatmaya nasıl başlayacağından söz ediyor. Daha doğrusu bir arkadaşının evine gidiyor.

http://kindlegunlugu.blogspot.com.tr/

Arkadaşı İkinci Dünya Savaşını ve Dresden faciasını atlatan bir gazi. Savaş yıllarından sonra içki içemez hale geliyor. Savaş karşıtı bir eşi var. Hatta kitabın diğer ismi olan Çocuk Haçlı Seferleri’ni (Children’s Crusade) arkadaşının eşinden alıyor. Kadının korkusuna rağmen, kitap tamamiyle satirik bir yönde, savaş karşıtı bir imaj yakalıyor.

Hikaye ise Billy Pilgrim isimli bir karakter üzerine kurulu. Vonnegut, ikinci dünya savaşını ve Dresden Katliamını yaşamış biri olarak, savaşın anlamsızlığına dair tüm fikirlerini çeşitli yazınsal tür, zaman ve kişiler üzerinden anlatıyor.

Zaman içinde dengesiz bir duruşu olan Billy Pilgrim, sürekli kendi hayatı içinde farklı zamanlara seyahat ediyor. Gözünü bir süre kapatması dahi bu seyahata sebep olabiliyor, bazen ona bile gerek kalmıyor. Kendi kontrolünün dışında gerçekleşiyor tüm bunlar. Doğumuna, çocukluğuna, ölümüne defalarca seyahat ediyor. Bazen başarılı bir göz doktoru olduğu yıllara gidiyor, bazen yalnızca bir uçak kazasından kurtulmayı başaran biri oluyor, Tralfamadore gezegeninde porno yıldızı Montana Wildhack ile sergilendiklerinde hayvanat bahçesinde sevişirken buluyor kendini bazen de. Fakat en sonunda, tüm kişiliğini oluşturan, belki de bir hikaye anlatabilmesini sağlayan o yıllara gidiyor. İkinci Dünya Savaşında, bir işe yaramayan, cılız, yürümekten aciz bir asker. Kendi silah arkadaşları tarafından dövülüyor, almanlar tarafından esir ediliyor, işçi olarak çalışıyor, balık istifi şeklinde istiflenip seyahat ediyor, Dresden’e aşık oluyor, bombalanışın ardından o cansız şehirde yürüyor, yürüyor, yürüyor; kazıyor ve binlerce ceset buluyor.

“Listen: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.” Şu açılış cümlesi, beni kitaba bağladı. Kitabın değil, hikayenin başlangıcıydı, fakat oturduğum yerde daha dik oturmamı sağlamama, kindle’ımı elimde daha sıkı tutmama sebep oldu. Okuduğum en iyi açılıştı diyebilirim. Savaşın bir insanın zihninde neler başarabileceğini tek cümlelik bir özeti gibi. Komik, sert, merak uyandırıcı, çoğu zaman iğrenç bir hikayeye adım attığınızı hissediyorsunuz. Mizahın en karası. Hikayeyi okurken, bu sertliğin farkına varıp bazen Vonnegut için bu kitabı yazmanın bir terapi olduğunu sezdim. Kendisi de bu Dresden faciasının ortasındaydı, roman, çok büyük oranda, kendi tecrübeleri üzerine kurulu.

Hikayeyi okudukça, Vonnegut’ın tüm o kara mizahına, ağır eleştirilerine denk geliyorsunuz. Açıkçası bunları okudukça kitaptan daha çok zevk aldım. O “Öeh…” dedirten paragraflar, çıkarımlar, kelimeler adeta akla kazınıyor. Duygu sömürüsü yapmaktan kurtulabilmesini ki genelde tüm ikinci dünya savaşı yazınları duygu sömürüsü doludur bu cümlelere bağlıyorum.

“At that time, they were teaching that there was absolutely no difference between anybody. They may be teaching that still.” Eğitim sistemlerine, ulus, fikir, yer kavramlarını umursamadan verilmiş en baba ayardır her halde bu. 20. Yüzyılda yazılan bu roman, hala çoğumuzun inandığı, inandırıldığı en büyük yalanlardan birini bulup suratımıza çarpabiliyor. “Hepiniz eşitsiniz!” “Ha siktir oradan…”

“’Get out of the road, you dumb motherfucker’ The last word was still a novelty in the speech of white people in 1944.” Amerikadaki Siyah – Beyaz kavgasını, kelimeler düzeyine indirip çok sadece, çok açık bir şekilde yansıtmış.

“ ‘Why me?’

‘That is a very Earthling question to ask, Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber?’ … ‘Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why.’”

Şu cümleler bizim şu saçma dünyada her şeyde bir mana aramamızı gayet güzel bir şekilde eleştiriyor. ‘There is no why’ diyerek gayet yeni bir bakış açıyor. Devamında ise, Tralfamadore gezegeninde onlarca şey sorgulanıyor. Dünyada ise bunların hepsi yine bir milisaniyeden çok daha kısa sürüyor. Hiç yokmuş, hiç duyulmamış, hiç fark edilmemiş gibi.

“So it goes.” Şu cümle koca kitap boyunca sizinle beraber geliyor. Hey orada mısın? Der gibi, takip edip etmediğinizi bir şekilde kontrol ediyor. Bir yandan da anlattıklarının anlamsızlığından boşluğundan yakınıyor. Yakındıkça daha çok şey anlatmaya başlıyor. Giderek azalıyor ‘so it goes,’lar. Fakat yine de hep biraz daha kalıyor. Hayatımızda da öyle değil mi? “Nasıl gidiyor hayat?” “Gidiyor işte…” “Eh işte…” Tabii, bu kelimelerin her ölümden sonra gelmesi de, bir şekilde ayrı tesadüf(!) So it goes, hadi geçmiş olsun…

“poo-tee-weet,” ne demek olduğu konusunda iyice düşünün. Kitabı okuyun, bitirin ve düşünün. Üzerinde düşünülmeden kütüphaneye koyacaksanız bu kitabı, hiç okumayın. Üzerine başka şeyler daha okumayacaksanız, merak ettiklerinizi araştırmayacaksanız ki merak edecek onlarca yeni şey veriyor hiç okumayan. Merak edilecek şeyleri anlayamayacaksınız, tüm bunları boş verin. Poo-tee-weet.


Books of The Times
At Last, Kurt Vonnegut's Famous Dresden Book SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE OR THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE By Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
http://www.nytimes.com

Kurt Vonnegut Jr., an indescribable writer whose seven previous books are like nothing else on earth, was accorded the dubious pleasure of witnessing a 20th-century apocalypse. During World War II, at the age of 23, he was captured by the Germans and imprisoned beneath the city of Dresden, "the Florence of the Elbe." He was there on Feb. 13, 1945, when the Allies firebombed Dresden in a massive air attack that killed 130,000 people and destroyed a landmark of no military significance.

Next to being born, getting married and having children, it is probably the most important thing that ever happened to him. And, as he writes in the introduction to "Slaughterhouse-Five," he's been trying to write a book about Dresden ever since. Now, at last, he's finished the "famous Dresden book."

In the same introduction, which should be read aloud to children, cadets and basic trainees, Mr. Vonnegut pronounces his book a failure "because there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre." He's wrong and he knows it.

Kurt Vonnegut knows all the tricks of the writing game. So he has not even tried to describe the bombing. Instead he has written around it in a highly imaginative, often funny, nearly psychedelic story. The story is sandwiched between an autobiographical introduction and epilogue.

Fact and Fiction Combined
The odd combination of fact and fiction forces a question upon the reader: how did the youth who lived through the Dresden bombing grow up to be the man who wrote this book? One reads "Slaughterhouse-Five" with that question crouched on the brink of one's awareness. I'm not sure if there's an answer, but the question certainly heightens the book's effects.

Here is the story: Billy Pilgrim, "tall and weak, and shaped like a bottle of Coca-Cola," was born in Ilium, N.Y., the only child of a barber there. After graduating from Ilium High School, he attended night sessions at the Ilium School of Optometry for one semester before being drafted for military service in World War II. He served with the infantry in Europe, and was taken prisoner by the Germans. He was in Dresden when it was firebombed.

After the war, he went back to Ilium and became a wealthy optometrist married to a huge wife named Valencia. They had two children, a daughter named Barbara who married an optometrist, and a son named Robert who became a Green Beret in Vietnam.

In 1968, Billy was the sole survivor of a plane crash on top of Sugarbush Mountain in Vermont. While he was recovering in the hospital, Valencia was killed in a carbon- monoxide accident. On Feb. 13, 1976, Billy was assassinated by a nut with a high- powered laser gun.

As you can see, there is much absurd violence in this story. But it is always scaled down to the size of Billy Pilgrim's world, which makes it more unbearable and more obligatory for the reader to understand the author's explanation for it. As I said, Mr. Vonnegut knows all the tricks.

Now there are two things I haven't yet told you about Billy Pilgrim, and I'm hesitant to do so, because when I tell you what they are you'll want to put Kurt Vonnegut back in the science-fiction category he's been trying to climb out of, and you'll be wrong.

First, Billy is "unstuck in time" and "has no control over where he is going next." "He is in a constant state of stage fright...because he never knows what part of his life he is going to have to act in next."

Story Told Fluidly
This problem of Billy's enables Mr. Vonnegut to tell his story fluidly, jumping forward and backward in time, free from the strictures of chronology. And this problem of Billy's is related to the second thing, which is that Billy says that on his daughter's wedding night he was kidnapped by a flying saucer from the planet Tralfamadore, flown there through a time warp, and exhibited with a movie star named Montana Wildhack.

The Tralfamadorians are two feet high, green, and shaped like plumber's friends, with suctions caps on the ground and little green hands with eyes on their palms at the top of their shafts. They are wise, and they teach Billy Pilgrim many things. They teach him that humans cannot see time, which is really like "a stretch of the rocky Mountains, " with all moments in the past, the present and the future, always existing.

"The Tralfamadorians...can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them." They teach Billy that death is just an unpleasant moment. Because Billy can go back and forth in time, he knew this lesson when he was in Dresden. In 1976, when he was assassinated, Billy Pilgrim was trying to bring this message to the world. He knew he would die, but he did not mind. "Farewell, hello, farewell, hello," he said.

I now, I know (as Kurt Vonnegut used to say when people told him that the Germans attacked first). It sounds crazy. It sounds like a fantastic last-ditch effort to make sense of a lunatic universe. But there is so much more to this book. It is very tough and very funny; it is sad and delightful; and it works. But is also very Vonnegut, which mean you'll either love it, or push it back in the science-fiction corner.

 
Sparknotes.com

Slaughterhouse-Five treats one of the most horrific massacres in European history—the World War II firebombing of Dresden, a city in eastern Germany, on February 13, 1945—with mock-serious humor and clear antiwar sentiment. More than 130,000 civilians died in Dresden, roughly the same number of deaths that resulted from the Allied bombing raids on Tokyo and from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, both of which also occurred in 1945. Inhabitants of Dresden were incinerated or suffocated in a matter of hours as a firestorm sucked up and consumed available oxygen. The scene on the ground was one of unimaginable destruction.

The novel is based on Kurt Vonnegut’s own experience in World War II. In the novel, a prisoner of war witnesses and survives the Allied forces’ firebombing of Dresden. Vonnegut, like his pro-tagonist Billy Pilgrim, emerged from a meat locker beneath a slaughter-house into the moonscape of burned-out Dresden. His surviving captors put him to work finding, burying, and burning bodies. His task continued until the Russians came and the war ended. Vonnegut survived by chance, confined as a prisoner of war (POW) in a well-insulated meat locker, and so missed the cataclysmic moment of attack, emerging the day after into the charred ruins of a once-beautiful cityscape. Vonnegut has said that he always intended to write about the experience but found himself incapable of doing so for more than twenty years. Although he attempted to describe in simple terms what happened and to create a linear narrative, this strategy never worked for him. Billy Pilgrim’s unhinged time—shifting, a mechanism for dealing with the unfathomable aggression and mass destruction he witnesses, is Vonnegut’s solution to the problem of telling an untellable tale.

Vonnegut wrote Slaughterhouse-Five as a response to war. “It is so short and jumbled and jangled,” he explains in Chapter 1, “because there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre.” The jumbled structure of the novel and the long delay between its conception and completion serve as testaments to a very personal struggle with heart-wrenching material. But the timing of the novel’s publication also deserves notice: in 1969, the United States was in the midst of the dismal Vietnam War. Vonnegut was an outspoken pacifist and critic of the conflict. Slaughterhouse-Five revolves around the willful incineration of 100,000 civilians, in a city of extremely dubious military significance, during an arguably just war. Appearing when it did, then, Slaughterhouse-Five made a forceful statement about the campaign in Vietnam, a war in which incendiary technology was once more being employed against nonmilitary targets in the name of a dubious cause.


LITERARY ARCHITECTURE
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
July 25, 2016 | by Matteo Pericoli
http://www.theparisreview.org/

Longtime readers of the Daily will remember Matteo Pericoli’s Windows on the World project, which featured his pen-and-ink drawings of the views from writers’ windows around the world. Matteo is also the founder of the Laboratory of Literary Architecture, an interdisciplinary project that looks at fiction through the lens of architecture, designing and building stories as architectural projects. In this new series, Matteo shares some of his designs and what they reveal about the stories they’re modeled on.

How can a horrific event, so monstrous it seems incomprehensible, be told? How does one even find the words to write about it? In the opening chapter of Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut recounts his being unable to write a war book about the Dresden firebombing (February 13–15, 1945), which he survived: “there is nothing intelligent to tell about a massacre.”

That “failure” carries a weight. The over-five-thousand pages he had previously written are abandoned like a block of stone—history that cannot be told. But as soon as he abandons the idea of a linear and faithful historical reconstruction, Vonnegut frees himself from the huge weight, disconnects himself from the event, and takes off. “The next [book] I write is going to be fun.”

Two lines later and “the next book” begins: it tells the surreal story of Billy Pilgrim, a young man who lives “unstuck” from chronological time (his life events, whether far apart or close, interconnect in a perennial present), who connects with an alien civilization, and relives the Dresden bombings which he, just like Vonnegut, survived. Vonnegut also tells us how this new book will start—“Listen: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time”—and how it will end—“Poo-tee-weet?”

Within Billy’s absurd story, we find many references to the historical and personal events Vonnegut mentioned in the beginning; we even meet the writer who, like a movie extra, appears here and there as a casual supporting element. “That was I. That was me.”

The structure of Billy’s imaginary and unhinged narrative leap must therefore lie upon (and rise from) the horrific weight of the unspeakable event. It must also contain points of contact between the unreal and the submerged stories. The stone foundation is as impenetrable as the idea of the Dresden bombing and it weighs on the landscape like all his years of research, memories, and attempts to understand the roots of such cruelty.

Billy Pilgrim’s story is instead a light, glass, and steel structure with its own geometry disconnected from that of the base, and with intersecting fragmentary volumes. A glass and steel cloud, suspended but properly anchored and supported by fin walls made of the same material as the base.

Once inside the cloud, we notice that there is order. Like Billy and Vonnegut’s aliens—who both perceive different events in time as nonchronological points in space—we visitors also understand that the fragmented spaces actually interpenetrate and that each event/space corresponds to another. Like Billy’s perception of time, space in the suspended structure is not linear. As we wander searching for order or meaning, we realize that every spatial instance contains the whole, the always.

Sparknotes.com

Themes

Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.

The Destructiveness of War

Whether we read Slaughterhouse-Five as a science-fiction novel or a quasi-autobiographical moral statement, we cannot ignore the destructive properties of war, since the catastrophic firebombing of the German town of Dresden during World War II situates all of the other seemingly random events. From his swimming lessons at the YMCA to his speeches at the Lions Club to his captivity in Tralfamadore, Billy Pilgrim shifts in and out of the meat locker in Dresden, where he very narrowly survives asphyxiation and incineration in a city where fire is raining from the sky.

However, the not-so-subtle destructiveness of the war is evoked in subtle ways. For instance, Billy is quite successful in his postwar exploits from a materialistic point of view: he is president of the Lions Club, works as a prosperous optometrist, lives in a thoroughly comfortable modern home, and has fathered two children. While Billy seems to have led a productive postwar life, these seeming markers of success speak only to its surface. He gets his job not because of any particular prowess but as a result of his father-in-law’s efforts. More important, at one point in the novel, Billy walks in on his son and realizes that they are unfamiliar with each other. Beneath the splendor of his success lies a man too war-torn to understand it. In fact, Billy’s name, a diminutive form of William, indicates that he is more an immature boy than a man.

Vonnegut, then, injects the science-fiction thread, including the Tralfamadorians, to indicate how greatly the war has disrupted Billy’s existence. It seems that Billy may be hallucinating about his experiences with the Tralfamadorians as a way to escape a world destroyed by war—a world that he cannot understand. Furthermore, the Tralfamadorian theory of the fourth dimension seems too convenient a device to be more than just a way for Billy to rationalize all the death with he has seen face-to-face. Billy, then, is a traumatized man who cannot come to terms with the destructiveness of war without invoking a far-fetched and impossible theory to which he can shape the world.

The Illusion of Free Will

In Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut utilizes the Tralfamadorians, with their absurdly humorous toilet-plunger shape, to discuss the philosophical question of whether free will exists. These aliens live with the knowledge of the fourth dimension, which, they say, contains all moments of time occurring and reoccurring endlessly and simultaneously. Because they believe that all moments of time have already happened (since all moments repeat themselves endlessly), they possess an attitude of acceptance about their fates, figuring that they are powerless to change them. Only on Earth, according to the Tralfamadorians, is there talk of free will, since humans, they claim, mistakenly think of time as a linear progression.

Throughout his life, Billy runs up against forces that counter his free will. When Billy is a child, his father lets him sink into the deep end of a pool in order to teach him how to swim. Much to his father’s dismay, however, Billy prefers the bottom of the pool, but, against his free will to stay there, he is rescued. Later, Billy is drafted into the war against his will. Even as a soldier, Billy is a joke, lacking training, supplies, and proper clothing. He bobs along like a puppet in Luxembourg, his civilian shoes flapping on his feet, and marches through the streets of Dresden draped in the remains of the scenery from a production of Cinderella.

Even while Vonnegut admits the inevitability of death, with or without war, he also tells us that he has instructed his sons not to participate in massacres or in the manufacture of machinery used to carry them out. But acting as if free will exists does not mean that it actually does. As Billy learns to accept the Tralfamadorian teachings, we see how his actions indicate the futility of free will. Even if Billy were to train hard, wear the proper uniform, and be a good soldier, he might still die like the others in Dresden who are much better soldiers than he. That he survives the incident as an improperly trained joke of a soldier is a testament to the deterministic forces that render free will and human effort an illusion.

The Importance of Sight

True sight is an important concept that is difficult to define for Slaughterhouse-Five. As an optometrist in Ilium, Billy has the professional duty of correcting the vision of his patients. If we extend the idea of seeing beyond the literal scope of Billy’s profession, we can see that Vonnegut sets Billy up with several different lenses with which to correct the world’s nearsightedness. One of the ways Billy can contribute to this true sight is through his knowledge of the fourth dimension, which he gains from the aliens at Tralfamadore. He believes in the Tralfamadorians’ view of time—that all moments of time exist simultaneously and repeat themselves endlessly. He thus believes that he knows what will happen in the future (because everything has already happened and will continue to happen in the same way).

One can also argue, however, that Billy lacks sight completely. He goes to war, witnesses horrific events, and becomes mentally unstable as a result. He has a shaky grip on reality and at random moments experiences overpowering flashbacks to other parts of his life. His sense that aliens have captured him and kept him in a zoo before sending him back to Earth may be the product of an overactive imagination. Given all that Billy has been through, it is logical to believe that he has gone insane, and it makes sense to interpret these bizarre alien encounters as hallucinatory incidents triggered by mundane events that somehow create an association with past traumas. Looking at Billy this way, we can see him as someone who has lost true sight and lives in a cloud of hallucinations and self-doubt. Such a view creates the irony that one employed to correct the myopic view of others is actually himself quite blind.

Motifs

Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.

“So It Goes”

The phrase “So it goes” follows every mention of death in the novel, equalizing all of them, whether they are natural, accidental, or intentional, and whether they occur on a massive scale or on a very personal one. The phrase reflects a kind of comfort in the Tralfamadorian idea that although a person may be dead in a particular moment, he or she is alive in all the other moments of his or her life, which coexist and can be visited over and over through time travel. At the same time, though, the repetition of the phrase keeps a tally of the cumulative force of death throughout the novel, thus pointing out the tragic inevitability of death.

The Presence of the Narrator as a Character

Vonnegut frames his novel with chapters in which he speaks in his own voice about his experience of war. This decision indicates that the fiction has an intimate connection with Vonnegut’s life and convictions. Once that connection is established, however, Vonnegut backs off and lets the story of Billy Pilgrim take over. Throughout the book, Vonnegut briefly inserts himself as a character in the action: in the latrine at the POW camp, in the corpse mines of Dresden, on the phone when he mistakenly dials Billy’s number. These appearances anchor Billy’s life to a larger reality and highlight his struggle to fit into the human world.

Symbols

Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts. The Bird Who Says “Poo-tee-weet?”

The jabbering bird symbolizes the lack of anything intelligent to say about war. Birdsong rings out alone in the silence after a massacre, and “Poo-tee-weet?” seems about as appropriate a thing to say as any, since no words can really describe the horror of the Dresden firebombing. The bird sings outside of Billy’s hospital window and again in the last line of the book, asking a question for which we have no answer, just as we have no answer for how such an atrocity as the firebombing could happen.

The Colors Blue and Ivory

On various occasions in Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy’s bare feet are described as being blue and ivory, as when Billy writes a letter in his basement in the cold and when he waits for the flying saucer to kidnap him. These cold, corpselike hues suggest the fragility of the thin membrane between life and death, between worldly and otherworldly experience.

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