by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse-Five Fate and Free Will Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Section.Paragraph)
So it goes.
(1.1.3, 1.21.2, 1.21.5, 2.2.1, 2.4.2, 2.7.3, 2.12.4, 2.16.2, 2.17.5, 2.19.16, 2.23.4, 2.27.2, 3.16.2, 3.22.1, 3.23.2, 4.3.1, 4.11.3-4, 4.14.2, 4.16.1, 4.16.4, 4.19.1, 5.5.2, 5.7.2, 5.8.2, 5.10.1, 5.10.3, 5.14.5, 5.20.8, 5.23.1, 5.24.12, 5.24.17, 5.27.12, 5.31.5, 5.38.1, 5.43.4, 5.55.10, 5.65.2, 6.5.6, 6.6.4, 6.9.3, 6.13.1, 6.16.4, 6.21.1, 7.2.4, 7.4.1, 7.7.1, 7.9.1, 8.7.2, 8.12.7, 8.24.3, 8.27.1, 9.1.6, 9.5.9, 9.6.2, 9.19.1, 9.24.4, 9.28.4, 9.29.8, 9.32.1, 10.1.1-3, 10.10.2, 10.10.4, 10.10.7)
As you can see from the page citations on this one, "So it goes" is pretty much the catchphrase of the novel. It expresses a general sense of resignation to the way things are. Your champagne goes flat? So it goes. Somebody dies? So it goes.
This is a Tralfamadorian motto, Billy Pilgrim explains, and he seems to embrace it. But we think the fact that the narrator has decided to write an anti-war book suggests that he does not find "so it goes" sufficient to explain all of the needless violence he has seen.
Billy first came unstuck while World War II was in progress. Billy was a chaplain's assistant in the war. A chaplain's assistant is customarily a figure of fun in the American Army. Billy was no exception. He was powerless to harm the enemy or to help his friends. In fact, he had no friends. He was a valet to a preacher, expected no promotions or medals, bore no arms, and had a meek faith in a loving Jesus which most soldiers found putrid. (2.11.2)
Not only is Billy a pretty sad soldier to start with—since we know he is funny-looking and scrawny—but his job in the army is not even a combatant position. He ministers to men who don't believe in his religion. Billy is absolutely unsuited to be in war, and yet he's still there. Fate?
Little Billy was terrified, because his father had said Billy was going to learn to swim by the method of sink-or-swim. His father was going to throw Billy into the deep end, and Billy was going to damn well swim.
It was like an execution. . . . [Billy] dimly sensed that somebody was rescuing him. Billy resented that. (2.25.5)
When Billy has his mental breakdown after the war, his doctors trace it back to this traumatic moment in the swimming pool. While we think Billy's breakdown probably has a little something to do with the war, we do agree that this scene represents pretty much everything that's wrong with Billy's life in miniature.
He has no choice about being tossed into the pool and he has no choice about being saved from it— much like he has no choice but to go fight in the Battle of the Bulge, and he has no choice but to keep going afterwards.