What seems to be the difference between Tralfamadorean novels and human novels in Slaughterhouse-Five?
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As befitting the different way in which Tralfamadoreans view the world, the novels that they read likewise vary radically from human novels. This is of course brought into focus at the beginning of Chapter 5 when Billy reads the only human novel that his captors have, and then asks for a Tralfamadorean novel to read. Even though he can't understand Tralfamadorean, he sees that these novels consist of "brief clumps of symbols separated by stars." When he comments that these resemble telegrams, he is told he is correct:
Each 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 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.
Tralfamadorean novels therefore are different in their complete absence of traditional human plot structures; there is, after all, no beginning or middle or end, only the "depths of many marvellous moments seen all at one time." This is of course particularly fitting, as Tralfamadoreans do not separate past, present and future from each other but only see every time simultaneously, raising massive issues as to the reality or otherwise of free will, which is one of the text's key themes.
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