Post Modern Interpretation of Slaughterhouse Five Essay

Pages: 4 (1462 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Literature

Post-Modern Interpretation of Slaughterhouse-Five

Meaning and form, purpose and relevance, reality and imaginary, these are a few concepts that the post-modern literature brings to one's attention by challenging everything one knows or believes to posses as knowledge.

Television, radio, newspapers and magazines are means of transportation for what is real as well as what is the result of creative minds from their sources into people's homes, invading their private spaces and gradually making the separation between real and made up become a blurry line that slowly starts to disappear. The technological advance of the second half of the twentieth century overwhelmed the world, people trying to keep their old landmarks and make them fit into this new perspective that was challenging everything. Life in a world flooded with the creations of the human mind seemed to be asking for 'postmodernism' that came as a manifestation of an attitude opposite to modernism. Peter Barry considers Jeremy Hawthorn's Concise Glosary of Contemporary Literary Theory the best reference to start with when making this distinction: while "the modernist laments fragmentation" (Beginning Theory, p. 84), but cannot help but use it, "the postmodernist celebrates it" (idem).

Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five is a novel that shows traces of modernism as well of postmodernism. The novel may be considered as belonging to modernism in that, according to the author's confessions from the first chapter, it is the result of decades of struggle to remember, render and find a suitable purpose for doing so. The author appears as nostalgic considering how literature used to be easy to classify and analyze, as opposed to his efforts to write thousand of pages and his subsequent decision to throw them away.

This first chapter of the book reveals some of the author's most intimate thoughts, although he is not presenting it as a preface to the book, but incorporating it as a First Chapter and despite the fact that he choose a fictional name for himself: "My name is Yon Yonson, I work in Wisconsin, I work in a lumbermill there" (Slaughterhouse Five, p. 9). The superposition of an imaginary, universal identity over the reality of the author's identity in this first chapter is mostly indicating that there is no definite delimitation between the two. He could share his memoirs with to any other soldier who has fought in that war. The next chapters will be speaking about the horrors of a world conflagration from the point-of-view of the universal soldier. Yon Yonson is impersonal enough for a person to assume about any possible ethnic origin. The author only places himself in Wisconsin, working in a lumber mill. The next chapter will be the voice of thousands and thousands of combatants, prisoners of war and other participants whose lives were marked forever with the terrible constant weight of their memories.

The first pages of the book make it clear that the writing is the result of a terrible memory: the bombing and destruction of Dresden in 1945. The author carefully points out "the war parts… are pretty much true" (Slaughterhouse Five, p.1). Leaving the rest to be interpreted as a work of fiction that includes parts about reality, his and his buddy's, Bernard V. O'Hare war experiences, the author is already warning the reader that what it will follow in the book should be taken as such. The postmodern interpretation of art requires that the form an artist has chosen to present his creation in is what the public receives and nothing else. The usual literary interpretations that might subject Vonnegut's work to questions such as: "was he too close to what happened in order for the story to be objective?," "what is the purpose of the story?" are dismissed form the very beginning. After all, a destruction of life and life's creations such as that of Dresden in 1945, as the author emphasizes it, is hard to explain or follow by anything else but silence.

Since his attempts to recapture the events and render them for the contemporary reader as well as posterity seem to be constantly nullified by their own proportions and absurdity, the fact that in the end he did manage to write a book, even a small book, about it, shows that he could not avoid writing it. He is obviously caught between his belief that as long as there are people there will be wars or,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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