VIETNAMIZING THE TRALFAMADORIANS IN KURT VONNEGUT’S SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE
Keywords:Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five, engaged literature, American society, Vietnam War
The goal of the paper is to explore Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five as a
means of social criticism of the Vietnam War. Prior to analyzing the novel, we must establish the
relation between Jean-Paul Sartre’s notion of engaged literature and Darko Suvin’s view of science
fiction as an ultimate literary alibi. Contrary to previous interpretations, the novel is viewed as a
comment on the author’s contemporary society rather than the distant historical period of World
War II or the spacially displaced world of the Tralfamadorians. Of primary interest will be the
Tralfamadorian subplot of the novel which, by presenting the Tralfamadorians as American politicians,
brings to attention the lack of interest and empathy for the lives of not only those who do
not belong to their race/culture, but towards American citizens. The Tralfamadorian catchphrase
“so it goes” is perceived as the government’s reaction to others’ suffering during the war, as well
as its habit of ignoring issues, concealing information and showing complete disregard for its
soldiers. Connecting the Tralfamadorian subplot to Vonnegut’s contemporary society, we aim
to discover similarities between the attitude of the Tralfamadorians and the stance of American
politicians during the Vietnam War, thus establishing a new reading of Vonnegut’s novel.
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