Slaughterhouse-Five Questions and Answers
by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

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What is the role of free will and fate in Slaughterhouse-Five?

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Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five is concerned with war and the dehumanization it causes. A number of issues come up in Vonnegut’s postmodern treatment of WWII. Among these, the tension between fate and free will is prevalent.

Billy Pilgrim has become “unstuck in time,” and he jumps back and forth from the war to his life in New York and back to the war and to outer space, where he has been kidnapped by aliens. His experiences, likely the result of PTSD caused by the horrors of surviving the firebombing of Dresden, bring him into contact with fate and free will. The alien Tralfamadorians teach him that time is not linear and that free will is an illusion. The leader tells him, “I've visited thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied reports on one hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will” (86). The Tralfamadorians believe the people of Earth are misguided when they believe they have any power over their fates at all.

The reader learns...

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