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In Slaughterhouse-Five, what is the author trying to do functionally with...

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gma | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 2, 2011 at 5:08 AM via web

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In Slaughterhouse-Five, what is the author trying to do functionally with Trout's novels?

slaughterhouse five, trout's novels

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amerie | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted August 5, 2011 at 4:49 AM (Answer #1)

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Kilgore Trout provides the answer to almost all of Billy Pilgrim's delusions in the novel.  In the second half of Slaughterhouse Five, the allusions to certain odd things start to become clear, and the reader can establish with some certainty that Billy is not, in fact, time traveling, but that he suffers from severe post-traumatic stress. 

Many of the examples from Trout are about the aliens.  Trout wrote a book that almost directly mirrors Billy's experience with Montana in outer space.  The Trafalmadorians themselves are presented in another of Trout's novels.  The x-rated picture of the woman and a horse ties back to the bookstore Billy was in while looking at Trout's novels.  Trout's science fiction is an escape for Billy, and then (eventually) it becomes a substitute reality - a reality more comfortable than the one with his needy mother, his fat wife, and his bitchy flibberty-gibbet of a daughter. 

Additionally, Kilgore Trout is unapologetic about the way he thinks, which is almost exactly opposite of how Billy feels about everything. 

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 1, 2012 at 6:32 AM (Answer #2)

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The novels of Kilgore Trout serve to connect Billy Pilgrim to a particular kind world view (outside the mainstream) and may also be suggestive of the author's view of himself at the time Slaughterhouse Five was being written.

The interpretation expressed above does have textual evidence to support it to some extent, however at the end of the novel the narrator expresses a qualified belief in Billy's "delusions". This points to a reading that would see Billy's time-travel as actual, within the context of the novel, so we would need to come up with another intepretation for Trouts novels that is not connected to the explanation of delusion. (Also, when this novel was written post-traumatic stress syndrome did not exist and its precursor, shell-shock, did not have the same associated symptoms.)

In Slaughterhouse Five, Billy is distinguished again and again from almost everyone around him. He simply cannot connect with people. This is true of his relationship to everyone from his wife to his son to Weary and his daughter. The only person Billy nearly connects with is Trout, more through his novels than through their meetings.

Importantly, Trout's novels explore another way to look at the world, one which is not determined by a collective, by society, or by logic. The fact that sanity is connected to the same society that can bomb a city (killing nearly 150,000 people who were not fighting and have no connection to the war) suggests that sanity might be better defined in another way.

Billy breaks from the mental conventions of his society as does the narrator. Both feel that peaceful existence is better than violent existence. They are in the minority, it would seem, in holding to his opinion. Like Kilgore Trout, Billy and the narrator are willing to pit their own views against those of the majority (and, in Vonnegut's case, express them in book form).

They are willing to appear crazy if believing that war is unnecessary marks them as insane.

 

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