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“The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. [Tralfamadorians] can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.

'When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is "so it goes."' (Vonnegut 13).

This passage is one of the most important because it summarizes the theme of rest of the book. Billy Pillgram, the main character, experiences his life (in the book) like a Tralfamadorian could, visiting various points in his life. This idea of the simultaneous existence of the past, present, and future is one seldom thought of, even by strict determinists. Billy Pillgram finds this thought comforting, especially when nearing death which he describes as a glowing violet light. This passage also sets and explains the commonly reoccurring phrase: “so it goes.” Narrated after an idea or person deceases, this phrase is peppered all throughout the book. It essentially means that a moment has past, that the person or idea’s life is gone in this moment. The moment permanence is yet another example of Vonnegut’s belief in determinism.

“Billy Pilgrim was having a delightful hallucination. He was wearing dry, warm, white sweatsocks, and he was skating on a ballroom floor. Thousands cheered. This wasn't time-travel. it had never happened, never would happen. It was the craziness of a dying young man with his shoes full of snow. One scout hung his head, let spit fall from his lips. The other did the same. They studied the infinitesimal effects of spit on snow and history. They were small, graceful people. They had been behind German lines before many times- living like woods creatures, living from moment to moment in useful terror, thinking brainlessly with their spinal

cords.” (Vonnegut 23).

This passage offers an incredible analysis of men in war. The passage is important because the main character, Billy, spends much of the story in the war. The author’s relation between animals and men of war is profound. The analogy shows the absence of higher level actions during war and the reliance on primitive instincts that during or without a war. This shows the barbarism of war, and that our species should not be treated as any higher than the others. This passage examines the what animals live; “moment to moment.” This is simple example of how animals differ from humans, but are not necessarily inferior. Animals differ from humans in that experience the moment and their future actions based on the moment and don’t actively reflect on their past when making decisions, they also don’t make decisions based on a predicted future. They truly live “moment to moment.” This also shows the distinction between the life of animals and humans and the life of humans and Tralfamadorians. This passage is also exemplary of Billy’s time in war, always holding back is fellow troops. They subsequently ditch him.

“'How-how does the Universe end?' said Billy.'We blow it up, experimenting with new fuels for our flying saucers. A Tralfamadorian test pilot presses a starter button, and the whole Universe disappears.' So it goes.

"If You know this," said Billy, 'isn't there some way you can prevent it? Can't you keep the pilot from pressing the button?'

'He has always pressed it, and he always will. We always let him and we always will let him. The moment is structured that way.'

'So,' said Billy gropingly, I suppose that the idea of, preventing war on Earth is stupid, too. '

'Of course.' 'But you do have a peaceful planet here.' 'Today we do. On other days we have wars as horrible as any you've ever seen or read

about. There isn't anything we can do about them, so we simply don't look at them. We ignore them. We spend eternity looking at pleasant moments-like today at the zoo. Isn't this a nice moment?'


'That's one thing Earthlings might learn to do, if they tried hard enough: Ignore the awful times, and concentrate on the good ones.'” (Vonnegut 53)

This passage is likely the most important of all those chosen. Billy Pillgram has been abducted from his home on the day following his wedding by Tralfamadorians, small green aliens. This passage takes place after he has acclimated to his new home (a zoo) on Tralfamador, the alien planet, and he is being calmly observed by its inhabitants. More than any passage in the book, this is support for strict determinism. That is the idea (it’s considered a world view) that free will does not exist, and that regardless of what people do or what physical phenomena occurs, that is exactly what was supposed to happen and it is impossible to change. It’s a very scientific view, primarily because neurologically we are no more unique than any other animal and therefore not more capable of controlling our destiny or that of others. I imagine determinism as the idea that if anyone were omniscient at any moment (knew every physical state of every particle and knew how they interact) then they would always be capable of predicting the future. Humans will behave in predictable ways, otherwise psychological experiments would have inconsistent results.

“America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, 'It ain't no disgrace to be poor, but might as well be.' It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: 'If you're so smart, why ain't You rich? '...Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue, the monograph went on. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward

blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say, Napoleonic times.

Many novelties have come from America. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.” (Vonnegut 58).

This passage, although somewhat insignificant to the book’s progression, offers great insight into American dignity and psychological socioeconomics. The purposeful oppression of the poor by the rich is a very Marxist one, however this passage appears to focus on a specific oppression: dignity. This passage states that Americans have a contrived psyche, they believe that it is very easy in America to come by money. I agree with the statement that Americans treat their poor with disgrace, although I don’t necessarily agree that the poor believe themselves to be at fault.

I would certainly recommend this book. Its eccentricity and complexion make for not only an interesting read, but an insightful one. Vonnegut offers fiction entwined with nonfiction, using a man he met in the war to tell the yearning story of the bombing of Dresden. His views of time travel are well communicated, and are by no means inconsistent (unlike many portrayals of the phenomenon in popular culture). His creation and introduction of the Tralfamadorians although visually hackneyed, have the unique nature of seeing in four dimensions. Vonnegut’s palpable description of Pillgram’s world adds even more enjoyment. Vonnegut was scarce in neither his depth of description nor his level of intellectual engagement for and with the reader. Vonnegut provides the reader with a hapless and interconnected view of life, partially reinforced and allowed by his power to narrow in on any point of Billy’s life with little lapse. Whether or not Vonnegut depicts Billy Pillgram specifically as a passive observer of his own life, or believes we all are, I am not sure. Vonnegut, although indirectly, discusses purpose of action and life. When Billy Pillgram is first abducted by the Tralfamadorians, his first utterance is: “Why me?” The electric organ used that the naturally telepathic Tralfamadorians used to communicate with humans responds: “That is a very Earthling question to ask, Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is...There is no why.” (Vonnegut 34). Vonnegut also uses a German guard to answer human’s groping desire for purpose: “'Why me?' he asked the guard. The guard shoved him back into ranks. 'Vy you? Vy anybody?' he

said.” (Vonnegut 41). This is a certainly unsatisfying answer, although it realistic. It seems as though Vonnegut’s conviction is that human’s existence is no more significant that that of the computer I’m using to write this paper.