What is the moral or message of Slaughterhouse Five?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse Five, his main moral messages are connected to the death of individualism in the midst of the mass suffering and destruction of war.

First, Vonnegut says that war is inevitable.  Stopping a war, or writing an anti-war novel, is like stopping a glacier: it is an exercise in futility.  As a result, humans lose their free will and become victims in the machinery of war, casualties of political ends.

Second, Vonnegut says that soldiers are reduced to children when fighting a war, such is their lack of freedom and passivity.  The subtitle for the books is "The Children's Crusade," a reference to how children used to be sold into war by their leaders.

Third, Vonnegut says that the machinery of war (science and technology) reduce the individual to the role of victim, such is the widespread death and destruction it breeds.

Fourth, Vonnegut says that humans, caught up in the affairs of the state, only see time in a linear fashion, as a series of cause-effect relationships.  In short, they fail to see the big picture, namely the consequences of their actions.

thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a number of messages that can be obtained from the novel Slaughterhouse Five. One moral message of the story is there is no point attempting to focus on the troubled moments of human history, instead people should concentrate on the happy events. This is because some of these negative experiences have to happen, and it is the choice of mankind to find a way to understand such situations that can’t be changed.

Billy’s knowledge from the Tralfamadorians informs him of true human nature. According to the Tralfamadorians all moments in life must exist and thus there is no point in focusing one's energy on sad situations such as death. They live, passing through the phases, they don’t bother themselves with death, and they basically only live freely within the moments they have.

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