by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse-Five Fate and Free Will Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Section.Paragraph)
The dog, who had sounded so ferocious in the winter distances, was a female German shepherd. She was shivering. Her tail was between her legs. She had been borrowed that morning from a farmer. She had never been to war before. She had no idea what game was being played. Her name was Princess. (3.1.2)
Much like Billy himself, Princess was drafted into this war and is pretty unhappy about it. The cold, impersonal way in which both Billy and Princess get put into situations that make them uncomfortable really highlights the fact that war is about the opposite of free will. Very few people in this novel have any kind of choice in determining their own lives.
Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were the past, the present, and the future. (3.13.2)
This would seem to suggest that Billy is subject to fate. He cannot change what has already happened to him, what is happening to him, or what will happen to him. This is in part because he is an enlisted man, but also because he is a fictional character—he literally has no free will. How does the narrator show more self-determination and free will than Billy?
The saucer was one hundred feet in diameter, with portholes around its rim. The light from the portholes was a pulsing purple. . . . Billy's will was paralyzed by a zap gun aimed at him from one of the portholes. It became imperative that he take hold of the bottom rung of the sinuous ladder, which he did. (4.6.1-2)
Much like the Germans, the Tralfamadorians take away all of Billy's choices. So why does Billy seem to embrace the Tralfamadorians and their point of view? And how does Billy's experience of captivity seem to differ from Montana Wildhack's? Is her range of choices the same as Billy's?