Banned Books Week: Margie Cox’s Thoughts on Slaughter-House Five

For our final Banned Book, junior secondary English Education major Margie Cox has taken the time to talk about her beloved Slaughter -House Five.  She explains how Vonnegut instantly captured her attention and why she holds the book so dear to her heart.

“There isn’t any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects.” This quote is a mirror image of Slaughterhouse-Five’s plot. Oftentimes, it seems jumbled and absurd and directionless to the extent of being pointless. This perceived pointlessness actually cements the novel’s underlying purpose.

Critics and readers alike hail Slaughterhouse-Five as one of the greatest anti-war novels in literature. I agree but find myself unable to ignore the “image of life” that Vonnegut presents outside of his anti-war sentiments. In Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut tackles morality and ethics, the illusion of free will, the devastating aftereffects of war, and the innately human instinct to destroy; it raises the question about what it would be like to lead a completely different life. But nowhere in the novel does Vonnegut directly attempt to shed light on the questions these themes raise. Instead, Vonnegut seamlessly portrays ideas and thoughts in such ways that transgress literary boundaries and remind the reader of the inevitability of life and the essence of humanity. Love and hate, peace and war, birth and death. So it goes.

This novel is next to impossible to explain; yet here I am. I still remember the first time I read Slaughterhouse-Five. I was skeptical and, after reading the first few pages, incredibly confused – but I soldiered on. Over the years, I have fallen in love with many books, but Slaughterhouse-Five is one that I continue to revisit, if only to reread the passages I marked and the notes I scribbled in the margins. Every so often you find a novel that takes everything you deemed necessary to create a masterpiece of literature and rips those expectations to shreds. It then proceeds to set them on fire and throw them out of a window. Slaughterhouse-Five, in a whirlwind of black humor and memorable quotes, forever changed the way I examined literature.

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