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by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five Fate and Free Will Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Section.Paragraph)

Quote #7

"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." (4.7.4-6)

What do you think of this idea that there is no need to explain anything, because it simply is? Why is Billy so pleased to give up on the whole idea of free will?

Quote #8

"Why me?" he asked the guard.

The guard shoved him back into ranks. "Vy you? Vy anybody?" he said. (5.9.3-4)

This exchange takes place when an American soldier says something in English that a German guard overhears and finds offensive. The German soldier punches the American, apparently out of the blue.

But this dialogue is also reminiscent of the Tralfamadorians' words to Billy Pilgrim: "Why you? Why us for that matter?" (see quote #8, above). This question of "why" seems to be one the narrator is asking the universe at large. Why do some people suffer so much and others don't? Billy's answer is the Tralfamadorian abandonment of free will. Does the novel offer any other answers? Are there any other answers to offer?

Quote #9

"If you know [that the Universe will be destroyed by a Tralfamadorian pilot who presses a button]," 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." (5.44.1-2)

What kinds of ethical problems does this Tralfamadorian perspective on fate seem to present? Are these ethical problems applicable to Billy and his own choices? If so, how?

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