Saturday, March 22, 2014
Slaughterhouse-Five and Beloved
I have read about a third of Slaughterhouse-Five, which I have really enjoyed, and I can't help but see a lot of similar ideas to those of Toni Morrison in Beloved. The main character, Billy Pilgrim, thinks that he has become "unstuck in time," meaning that he drifts back and forth between the past and future, starting with his traumatic experiences behind enemy lines in World War II. He is apparently either senile or crazy (although since he is the narrator we don't know), because he believes all of this was explained to him by aliens who can see any point in time. This allows Billy to distance himself from his traumatic experiences: every time somebody dies in the novel (which is absurdly often and usually under bizarre or ironic circumstances), he follows it with "so it goes"; for example, "Billy was given an emergency furlough home because his father, a barber in Ilium, New York, was shot dead by a friend while they were out hunting deer. So it goes." This reminds me a lot of Beloved. Again, he's trying to forget his experiences or change the way he sees them, and in the end it makes him dysfunctional. Vonnegut portrays war somewhat like Morrison portrays slavery. However, Vonnegut doesn't take himself nearly as seriously as Morrison and the style is completely different.