Slaughter house-Five, written by Kurt Vonnegut is a post modern novel, attempting to undermine the reader's expectations. The novel does not have smooth transitions from one event to the next. The reason is, because the novel reflects modern man's life. Since the novel is not smooth it is confusing. This is just like modern man's life, confusing. Another literary device is, it is difficult to follow.
When the novel is hard to read the reader cannot enjoy and understand the book. This is how modern society is too (difficult to follow). Another literary device is the novel's characters lack depth. The characters need more descriptive details. This reflects man by saying that man lacks depth and is not well rounded. The book undermines the novel's conventional approach.
These are some reasons for the undermining of the reader's expectations. The novel does not have smooth transitions from one event to the next one. 'Billy blinked in 1958, traveled in time to 1961.' After a chapter, 'Billy Pilgrim nestled like a spoon with the hobo on Christmas night, and he fell asleep, and he traveled in time to 1967. When Billy is in 1958, he is busy talking about World War Two. Then suddenly he travels through time to 1967 and he ends up being kidnapped by aliens from Tralfamadore. So when the story changes, the reader's mind has to adjust to the changes.
The events just pop up all of a sudden. Modern man always has surprises in life that just pop up just like this novel. In life there is usually no smooth adjustments. It is abrupt and sudden. Billy Pilgrim (protagonist) travels through time in an awkward chronological order. In life people do not adapt to different situations without any problem.
In this book, shifting from one situation to another is meant to be poor. The book is difficult to follow. It has many small stories in it. Pilgrim is in World War Two and then he ends up being with aliens from Tralfadamore. Some of these topics are hard to comprehend.
This symbolizes modern life since it is difficult to comprehend the understandings of life. For example, Roland Weary is one of Billy's war companions. He kept beating the living daylights out of Billy. The novel mentions that Weary treat Pilgrim like this to discipline him, but he over does it. Is it, because Weary is a psychopath or has something against Pilgrim or maybe even perhaps it is jealously that causes this hostility? Questions like this left unanswered makes the reader not aware of what is happening.
Another example is, Pilgrim and his war companions are captured by German soldiers. The soldiers are kinder to Billy than to Weary. 'Billy was helped to his feet by the lovely boy,' 'And the others come forward to dust the snow off Billy' Another quote,' He tore open Weary's overcoat and blouse. Brass buttons flew like popcorn. The corporal reached into Weary's gasping bosom as though he meant to tear out his pounding heart,' Both of them are treated differently. This makes the reader anticipate why.
This is not explained in the novel. Life is the same: there are many questions unanswered that people are curious about. Vonnegut in this novel purposely does not describe events like this in detail so it can reflect modern life. This is the reason for the difficulty of understanding this novel. Some side characters lack depth and need more description. For instance there was a photographer present at the war.
He took pictures of Pilgrim and Weary when they were captured by the Germans. Vonnegut did not describe anything about his past or for what company he is working for and so on. 'There was a photographer present, a German correspondent with a Leica.' That is all the author writes on him. The readers want to know more about the characters. This help makes the story more interesting. Since there is a lack of descriptiveness, the readers form questions in their mind.
This happens in life too. When there is not enough information on something there is always curiosity and more questions. Another symbolism is man is not in depth. According to a certain interpretation of Vonnegut's symbolism, man is not well rounded. Man should be more involved in a variety of activities to give life more depth and meaning. So Vonnegut wants to reflect this by giving some characters short descriptions.
This book undermines the reader's expectations. Vonnegut wrote this novel in a such a way so it would break all the rules of the conventional novel. The conventional novel has smooth transition. So to break the rules, Vonnegut wrote this book without any smooth transition. This book also reflects modern man's life. Life is not smooth, it is usually more of a bumpy ride.
This novel is very complicated. The topics that are mention are hard to understand. The readers may find the book difficult to follow. Modern life is complicated and full of confusing issues.
Slaughter House-Five's character's needs more depth. More description is necessary. Modern man needs more meaning and depth in his life too. This book attempts to undermine the reader's expectations through post modernism.