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In Chapter 4 of Slaughterhouse-Five, what is significant about the two conversations...

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cenicienta | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted September 22, 2012 at 3:20 AM via web

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In Chapter 4 of Slaughterhouse-Five, what is significant about the two conversations Billy has with the Tralfamadorians?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 15, 2012 at 10:11 PM (Answer #1)

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Both conversations in this chapter present all forms of life as if they were bugs trapped in amber. This first is raised when Billy asks why his captors chose to abduct him and why he is now on a space ship hurtling through space to the planet of the Tralfamadoreans. His captor responds that there is no "why" and that all forms of life are merely "bugs trapped in amber." This is a description that he elaborates on at the end of the chapter, explaining what he means, and commenting on the difference between the way in which humans perceive time and the Tralfamadoreans perceive time:

I am a Tralfamadorean, seeing all time as you might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I've said before, bugs in amber.

The two conversations are therefore important in the way that they present a vital theme of the novel, which is free will, and its absence. As Billy comments, it sounds as if the Tralfamadoreans do not believe in free will. His captor responds that only humans out of all the known creatures of the universe ever talk of free will, suggesting that only humans are unable to accept their destiny and fate and see themselves as "bugs in amber."


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