The Thought Experiments In Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five Or The Children's Crusade: A Duty Da

3348 words - 13 pages

The Thought-experiments in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five or the Children's Crusade: A Duty Dance With Death


In 1945 Kurt Vonnegut witnessed a horrific series of bombings that led to the destruction of the German city of Dresden, where he was taken as a prisoner of war. The controversial fire-storm raid, carried out by bombers of the Royal Air Force and US Air Force, took casualties of up to a quarter million people (Klinkowitz x-xi). As a prisoner of war, Vonnegut was forced to participate as a corpse miner in the city's cleanup process. Upon his return from the Second World War, Vonnegut decided to write a book describing his traumatic war experiences. After twenty years of struggling with research, failing to recall personal experiences, and publishing two novels and countless short stories, Kurt Vonnegut finally published-as what he frequently refers to as-the "book about Dresden." It was titled Slaughterhouse Five or the Children's Crusade: A Duty Dance With Death, or more simply: Slaughterhouse Five. The result of twenty years of work is a biography that has been bizarrely fictionalized by Vonnegut's incorporation of anecdotes about alien abduction and time travel.

Prior to the publication of Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut invented the terminology "Chrono-Synclastic Infundibulum," defined as a phenomenon in the universe where matter scatters through space and time, resulting in their simultaneous existence in multiple places and times. Consequently multiple notions-often contradicting each other-can exist and consume the same space. While this strange yet imaginative "space" was conceived in a previous novel, The Sirens of Titan, Vonnegut crafted the structure and progression of Slaughterhouse Five with his new invention closely in mind. In many respects Slaughterhouse Five is a Chrono-Synclastic Infundibulum where multiple contradicting notions intertwine: it is a place where elements of autobiography and science fiction coexist, as the result of Vonnegut's usage of time travel to challenge linear-time progression. Although drastic presentations such as space and time travel potentially hinder the plausibility of the storyline and detach the reader from the text, it is this exact element in Slaughterhouse Five that returns the reader back into the story, bringing closer the relationship between the reader and Vonnegut himself. In this sense, this experimental form of narrative creates another Chrono-Synclastic Infundibulum: a place in the novel where both the reader and the author coexist. With this new form of storytelling Vonnegut commits himself to a novel that could possibly fail. However he takes this risk in order to produce a novel that reflects his personal experiences more closely than if he had abided with conventional styles. By inserting the readers and himself into the novel, Vonnegut thus subjects the readers to his personal experiences more directly; the act of reading Slaughterhouse Five becomes a...

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