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The Tragic Language In Vonnegut

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Through the use of humour and chaotic chronological patterns that subvert traditional literary boundaries and contrast the tragic elements of the novel, Vonnegut makes a point about the irrationality and absurdity of war. Any attempt to search for meaning or reason in war is thus rendered futile for there is none.
When the narrative situation itself appears to demand the reader’s strict attention, Vonnegut’s use of humorous language diverts our attention to the novel’s language instead. His use of bizarre, funny-sounding words that are incongruous with the seriousness of the situations they describe such as “flibbertigibbet” (29) during Billy’s confrontation with his daughter and describing Billy’s rescuers (for the plane crash) as “golliwogs”
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This juxtaposition of the troubling narrative with whimsical language is also illustrated in his use of odd similes. Blood in the snow is liken to “the color of raspberry sherbet” (54) and the firing sound of the antitank gun is like “opening of the zipper on the fly of God almighty” (34). Certainly, this comparison of a battlefield event to an almost erotic act carried out by God draws the reader’s attention away from the narrative situation to the presentation of that situation. The narrator also repeatedly conflates the literal and figurative, as shown when Roland Weary calls Billy a “dumb motherfucker” only for the narrator to provide an unnecessary assurance that Billy “had never fucked anybody” (34), generating a perverse kind of humour amidst the bleak situation. Therefore, Vonnegut’s attempt to draw our attention to the relatively insignificant (manner in which a momentous event is described as compared to the event itself) suggests that perhaps they are not so much less important than the supposed significant events they purport to describe. By collapsing the distinction between…show more content…
Chaos is introduced in chapter one where the narrator acknowledges the “jumbled and jangled” (19) nature of the book. By anticipating the novel’s end—“Poo-tee-weet” (22)—even before the story truly begins, Vonnegut collapses the distinction between ‘end’ and ‘beginning’ that govern the notion of ‘order’. Order has failed from the start and any subsequent attempts to search for order is thus doomed to fail. However, despite acknowledging the illogicality of war and the futility of seeking any meaning, the structure of the novel is such that the reader is still continually reminded of the massacre that took place in Dresden. By mentioning it in the opening paragraph of the book and constantly reminding the readers of it throughout the novel, Vonnegut forces the reader to regard the atrocities of the war as a mental ‘present’, instead of ‘past’. This technique reinforces Vonnegut’s message about the horrors and senselessness of war and also makes the point that war, despite being irrational, is not to be
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