Slaughterhouse Five

An Analysis of Slaughterhouse-Five’s Implications About the Illusion of Free Will 11th Grade

Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five has been the subject of much attention and debate since its release. Its wide range of topics such as critique of the American government and discussion of existentialism have made it an extremely controversial piece of literature. One passage in particular has been the catalyst of altercation among critics and readers alike: Billy Pilgrim’s discussion with a Tralfamadorian about the idea of free will, which becomes a theme throughout the novel. I believe that Vonnegut intended to convey through Slaughterhouse-Five that “free will” is just that: an idea. Over the course of Billy Pilgrim’s story, he repeatedly finds himself in situations in which he has no free will. The “and so it goes” theory of the Tralfamadorians represents the idea that we cannot change anything. While brief, the most significant point is that the Tralfamadorians tell Billy Pilgrim that our planet is the only on that has even a concept of free will. Through his novel Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut conveys that “free will does” not actually exist: it is simply an illusion.

Frequently in Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut puts Billy Pilgrims in positions in which he has little to no free will. One of these situations, the...

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