Slaughterhouse number five, or the Children’s Crusade
“Almost all this happened in fact.” This phrase begins a novel, which, as it appears from the author’s warning, “is partly written in a slightly telegraph-schizophrenic style, as they write on the planet Tralfamador, from where the flying saucers appear.” The protagonist of the book, Billy Pilgrim, according to the narrator’s expression, “disconnected from time”, and now with him there are different strangenesses.
“Billy went to bed an elderly widower and woke up on his wedding day. He entered the door in 1955, and left in 1941. Then he returned through the same door and found himself in 1961. He says that he saw his birth and his death and many times fell into other events of his life between birth and death. “
Billy Pilgrim was born in the fictional city of Ilium, and in the same year, when the author himself was born. Like the latter, Billy fought in Europe, was captured by the Germans and suffered a bombing of Dresden, when more than one hundred and thirty thousand civilians died. He returned to America and, unlike his creator, entered the courses of optometrists, got engaged with the daughter of their owner. He develops a nervous breakdown, but he is quickly cured. His affairs are going well. In 1968, he flies to an international congress of optometrists, but the plane crashes and everyone but him dies.
The Tralfamadores are convinced that all living beings and plants in the machine universe. They do not understand why earthlings are so offended when they are called machines. Tralfamadortsy, by contrast, are very happy with their machine status: neither worry nor suffering. Mechanisms are not tormented by questions about how the world works. According to the scientific point of view adopted on this planet, the world should be accepted as it is. “This is the structure of this moment,” – answer Tralfamadortsy for all “why” Billy.
Tralfamador is the triumph of scientific knowledge. Its inhabitants have long unraveled all the riddles of the universe. They know how and when she will die. The Tralfamodors themselves will blow it up, testing a new fuel for their saucers, “when a suitable structure of the moment is created.” But the coming cataclysms do not spoil the mood of the Tralfamadors, guided by the principle of “not paying attention to the bad and concentrating on good moments.” Billy in general, and he always lived according to the Tralfamadorian rules. He did not care about Vietnam, where his son Robert works. In the “green berets” this “shooting machine” brings order according to the order. I forgot Billy and about the Dresden apocalypse. Until he flew to Tralfamador after the very plane crash. But now it constantly runs between the Earth and Tralfamador. From the matrimonial bedroom, he finds himself in the barrack of prisoners of war, and from Germany in 1944 – to America in 1967, in a luxurious “Cadillac” that carries him through the Negro ghetto, where more recently the tanks of the National Guard have been warning the local population, who tried to “swing their rights” “. And Willy is hurrying to dinner at the Lviv Club, where a certain major will be demanding the bombing with foam at his mouth. But not Dresden, but Vietnam. Billy, as chairman, listened with interest to the speech, and the major’s arguments do not arouse his objections. where the tanks of the national guard recently warned the local population, who tried to “swing their rights.” And Willy is hurrying to dinner at the Lviv Club, where a certain major will be demanding the bombing with foam at his mouth. But not Dresden, but Vietnam. Billy, as chairman, listened with interest to the speech, and the major’s arguments do not arouse his objections. where the tanks of the national guard recently warned the local population, who tried to “swing their rights.” And Willy is hurrying to dinner at the Lviv Club, where a certain major will be demanding the bombing with foam at his mouth. But not Dresden, but Vietnam. Billy, as chairman, listened with interest to the speech, and the major’s arguments do not arouse his objections.
In wanderings Pilgrim chaotic is only apparent. Its route is verified by precise logic. Dresden 1945, Tralfamador and the US in the late sixties – three planets in one galaxy, and they rotate in their orbits, obeying the law of “expediency,” where goals always justify the means, and the more a person resembles a car, the better for him and for the machine – human society.
In the Dresden fragment, two deaths – a huge German city and one American prisoner of war – are not accidental. Dresden will die as a result of a carefully planned operation, where “technology decides everything.” American Edgar Darby, who before the war read the course on the problems of modern civilization at the university, will be killed according to instructions. Digging up the debris after the allied aviation attack, he will take the kettle. This will not go unnoticed by the German escorts, he will be accused of looting and shot. Twice the letter of instruction will triumph, a crime will be committed twice. These events, for all their differentness, are interrelated, because they are generated by the logic of machine pragmatism, when people are not taken into account, but faceless human units.
Disconnected from time, Billy Pilgrim at the same time acquires the gift of memory. The memory of the historical, holding in mind the moments of the intersection of private existence with the fate of other people and the fate of civilization.
Learning about the intention of the author-narrator to compose an “anti-war book,” one of the characters exclaims: “Why do not you compose an anti-glam book.” He does not argue, “stopping wars is as easy as stopping glaciers,” but everyone must fulfill their duty. To fulfill his duty Vonnegutu is actively assisted by the fantasy writer Kilgour Trout, born of his imagination, digests from books of which are constantly found throughout the novel.
So, in the story “A miracle without guts,” robots threw jelly gasoline from planes to burn living creatures. “Their conscience was not there, and they were programmed so as not to imagine what was being done about it with people on the ground.” Traut’s lead robot looked like a man, could talk, dance and walk with girls, and no one reproached him for saying that he he throws the condensed gasoline on people, but he did not forgive the bad smell from his mouth, and then he recovered from this, and humanity happily accepted him into his ranks. “
Trautian themes closely intertwine with real historical events, giving science fiction a reality, and reality making a phantasmagoria. The bombed out Dresden in Billy’s memories is held in the moonlight: “The sky was completely covered with black smoke.” The angry sun seemed to be the nail head, Dresden looked like the moon – some minerals. “The stones were hot, there was death around them.”
Slaughterhouse number five is not the serial number of the next world cataclysm, but only the designation of the Dresden slaughterhouse, in which the American prisoners and their German guards escaped from the bombing. The second part of the title “The Crusade of Children” is revealed by the narrator in one of numerous purely publicistic inclusions, where author’s thoughts are expressed in plain text. The narrator remembers 1213, when two rogues-monks conceived a scam – the sale of children into slavery. To this end, they announced the crusade of children to Palestine, having earned the approval of Pope Innocent III. Out of thirty thousand volunteers, half were lost in shipwrecks, nearly as many fell into captivity, and only a tiny fraction of the little enthusiasts mistakenly landed where they were not expected by the ships of the traffickers.
People turn out to be toys in the military entertainments of the powerful of this world and at the same time themselves sometimes experience an irresistible craving for deadly toys. The father of the prisoner Roland Viry enthusiastically collects various instruments of torture. The father of the narrator “was a wonderful man and was obsessed with weapons, he left me his guns.” They rust. ” And another American prisoner of war, Paul Lazarro, is sure that “there is nothing sweeter than vengeance in the world.” By the way, Billy Pilgrim knows in advance that he will die from his bullet on February thirteenth, 1976. In proposing to ponder over who is more to blame for the growing wave of intolerance, violence, state and individual terrorism, in the final, tenth chapter, the narrator proposes “only facts” : “Robert Kennedy, whose dacha is eight miles from the house where I live all year round, was wounded two days ago. He died last night. So it goes. Martin Luther King, too, was shot a month ago. So it goes. And every day the US government gives me an account of how many. corpses was created with the help of military science in Vietnam. So it goes”.
The Second World War is over. In Europe, spring and chirping birds. One birdie asked Billy Pilgrim: “Do you have a drink?” This bird “issue” and ends the decree.