English 4 AP
Slaughterhouse Five: An Unwilling Step Through Time In Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse Five time travel and the illusion of free will is a key factor to the story. Vonnegut uses time travel to convey a message about free will and how it does not exist. It is mostly through Billy’s interaction with the Tralfamadorians (which are beings of the fourth dimension or aliens) that Vonnegut reveals his ideas about free will and time travel. The Tralfamdorians have a belief system that all moments are structured and that everything in time has already occurred. This allows them to be accepting of their fate by knowing that free will is an illusion because everything would have been decided before it took place.
The Tralfamadorian use this perception of time as an attempt to discover a way to accept things as they come. To them they see time as a collection of moments that exist all at once rather than one moment at a time. They lecture Billy about accepting his fate, since he is unable to change it. The Tralfamadorians make death a rational thing and dismiss it as just an unfortunate moment by saying, “so it goes.” To the Tralfamadorians death doesn’t occur due to there being some point in time that they still exist. Although it is argued that Billy is hallucinating his escapades, on Tralfamadore he is able to escape a world he sees being destroyed by war.
Vonnegut successfully uses the Tralfamadorians to make the readers wonderif free will exists. They believe that due to everything already having occurred they should just be accepting to their fated ends and just forget about free will. In the words of one Tralfamadorian,
“If I hadn’t spent so much studying Earthlings … I wouldn’t have any idea what was meant by ‘free will.’ I’ve visited thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied reports on one hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will” (Vonnegut p.109).
The Tralfamadorians pay no attention to any possibility of the idea of free will, believing that humans are the only beings to believe in such a thing. They hold true that it is an illusion that only as humans have and try to get Billy to believe the same.
Whilst Billy is unstuck in time, he revisits