What is the moral or message of Slaughterhouse Five?

There are really two answers to the question of what is the moral or message to Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. One is obvious and one is less so. The obvious message is that war is incredibly destructive and inhumane. The other is that there is no message or moral, because in a universe in which such awful things happen, there is no chance of any overarching meaning.

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Kurt Vonnegut's World War II novel Slaughterhouse-Five, published in 1969, is his most widely read, discussed, and taught book. It is a strange book, blending the genres of sci-fi, war novel, autobiography, and fable. Those looking for a clear moral in the novel will find it immediately: war is bad, war is violent, war is hell.

The book is subtitled "The Children's Crusade," and draws attention to a particularly savage historical period. This brings up a second major theme in the novel, that of innocence lost or destroyed. The hapless protagonist , Billy Pilgrim, is bounced back and forth through time and space without any agency or understanding. He is an innocent character and so is constantly abused by those stronger than he is. Historical forces he can't understand also irrevocably alter his life. He represents humanity as a battered reed, and Vonnegut's point may be that given the horror of the modern world, passivity can function as some kind of nobility. "So it goes" is the book's...

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on April 21, 2020
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