This He felt like he was stuck inside

This He felt like he was stuck inside

This first chapter, a preface, is insistent on the fact that the book is basedon real events. Vonnegut, like our narrator, is a veteran of World War II, aformer prisoner of war, and a witness to a great massacre, and that fact lends acertain authority to what follows. Vonnegut shares with us his enduringinability to render in writing the horror of Dresden. There is nothingintelligent to say about a massacre, yet he feels the need to say something. Thebook unabashedly charts the author’s struggle to find a way to write about whathe saw in a way that neither belittles nor glorifies it. This struggle we keepin the back of our minds as we proceed to read of Billy Pilgrim’s life.

Theauthor also irrevocably creates himself as a character in the narrative. It isKurt Vonnegut, the writer, the former POW, who speaks of the many times he hastried and failed to write this book. It is Kurt Vonnegut, too, who utters thefirst “So it goes” after relating that the mother of his taxi driverduring his visit to Dresden in 1967 was incinerated in the Dresden attack.”So it goes” is repeated after every report of every death. It becomesa mantra of resignation, of acceptance, of a supremely Tralfamadorian philosophy(something we will be introduced to later). But because the phrase is firstuttered by Vonnegut writing as Vonnegut, each “So it goes” seems tocome directly from the author and from the world outside the fiction of thetext.

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Chapter One also hints that time will be an important part of the fictionto follow. The author was going around and around in circles trying to create alinear narrative. He felt like he was stuck inside a children’s song thatcontinued indefinitely, its last line maddeningly serving as also as its first.

Only when he begins to think about static time, about returning endlessly to theevents of one’s life, about moments existing for eternity in no particularorder, is he able to break through twenty years of frustration and writeSlaughterhouse Five.

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