A Tralfamadorian Work The Tralfamadorians give an example of how their stories, or ‘telegrams’, are in no specific order and are read all at once to create a story. Vonnegut uses this same concept in writing Slaughterhouse-Five by having small stories in no particular order, but when read together create an in depth story of Billy Pilgrim’s life. While not a complete failure, one must realize that it is not truly a Tralfamadorian novel. While the passage that shows a snippet of Tralfmadorian literature is a window into how we should attempt to read Slaughterhouse-Five, we cannot truly read it as a Tralfamadorian piece of work.
The Tralfamadorians make it clear from the very beginning of their description that humans can’t begin to understand one of their novels, so how can we really expect an earthling to be any more successful at writing one? In short, we cannot expect such a thing. Slaughterhouse-Five has all the signs of being Tralfamadorian in nature. The Tralfamadorians state that in their literature, “there is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects” (Vonnegut 112). Slaughterhouse-Five is in no logical order, meaning there is no beginning, middle, or end.
It is presented as sporadic, in the Tralfamadorian fashion. There is a definite lack of suspense since Vonnegut tells us at the beginning of the novel how it begins and ends. Every time death is mentioned in Slaughterhouse-Five there is no sense of remorse, or an overall sensation of morals. This lack of morals is demonstrated by the phrases “and so on” and “so it goes” that are usually following scenes of death. This use of language gives a feeling that death is not a big deal and something that should not be paid excessive attention to.
The novel is also told with no logical sense of cause and effect. It often seems that whatever the effects are going to occur, will occur regardless of the different causes actually occurring. Since the reader already knows both the beginning and the end of the book, there is a feeling that we as the reader are actually Tralfamadorian since we know what will ultimately happen regardless of the characters knowledge of it. While there appear to be many elements of a Tralfamadorian novel in the structure of Slaughterhouse-Five, a few key elements ultimately make the novel non Tralfamadorian.
According to what Billy is told, the aliens can read their book all at once, which humans clearly can’t do. Once again explained to Billy, the Tralfamadorian authors carefully write the scenes to portray an “image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep” (Vonnegut 112). This is where Vonnegut very much separates his novel from the Tralfamadorian way of writing. Vonnegut does present most of his work as surprising and deep, but he certainly does not present Billy’s life in a way that is beautiful. Life is most certainly not presented as beautiful in the novel.
Slaughterhouse-Five presents life as anything but beautiful. People are frightened, sick, and broken both physically and mentally throughout the entire book. This way of writing makes things seem dismal at almost all times. It is possible that someone could view the work as beautiful, but Vonnegut does not portray life in Slaughterhouse-Five as beautiful, and certainly does not want the reader to think it is beautiful. This separation from the Tralfamadorian way of writing keeps Slaughterhouse-Five from being a true Tralfamadorian novel.
To Vonnegut’s disappointment, Slaughterhouse-Five is not written in true Tralfamadorian style, although he attempts to do so. Vonnegut attempts to write a non-linear Tralfamadorian novel but does not succeed. He does not write it in the Tralfamadorian style because it is impossible for a human to do so. As the Aliens said themselves, the telegram type moments in a story are read and “seen all at once” (Vonnegut 112). Through his failure in writing a Tralfamadorian novel however, we do still get a small taste of what one is like.
There is however, a possibility that he did succeed in his attempt and the only reason he “failed” is on the inability of the reader. Even if Vonnegut wrote the perfect Tralfamadorian novel, we as the reader do not have the ability to read it “all at once” in its true fashion. It would be up to a Tralfamadorian to decide if Vonnegut succeeded.
Work Cited Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five. 25th anniversary ed. New York, N. Y. : Delacorte Press/Seymour Lawrence, 1994. Print.
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