by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse-Five Literature and Writing Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Section.Paragraph)
"[E]ach clump of symbols is a brief, urgent message – describing a situation, a scene. We Tralfamadorians read them all at once, not one after the other. There isn't any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. (5.3.4)
Slaughterhouse-Five probably comes about as close as anything we have read to a novel with "no beginning, no middle, no end, [and] no suspense." Do you find that the lack of chronological order interferes with your understanding of the book?
[Rosewater] said that everything there was to know about life was in The Brothers Karamazov, by Feodor Dostoevsky. "But that isn't enough any more," said Rosewater. (5.21.1)
The Brothers Karamazov is a famous (and very long) realist novel that tackles themes of religion, family, crime, and punishment. Why does Rosewater feel that old stories involving these themes no longer describe the reality he and Billy live in?
"Did that really happen?" said Maggie White. She was a dull person, but a sensational invitation to make babies. . . .
"Of course it happened," Trout told her. "If I wrote something that hadn't really happened, and I tried to sell it, I could go to jail. That's fraud." (8.13.1-2)
Kilgore Trout is being facetious here by claiming that novelists are expected to write only the truth. At the same time, his novels, even if they are science fiction, tackle real and important subjects, such as greed, faith, and morality. With Slaughterhouse-Five, it seems to us that Vonnegut is claiming that many of the ideas expressed in fiction may not be literal or real, but they have a higher philosophical truth.