“When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simple shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is ‘So it goes.'”Pg. 27
So it goes.
This line appears fifteen times in this chapter. Granted, I may have miscounted, but you understand where I’m coming from. Right? This line is continuously seen through the first chapter as well, so it obviously has importance, though I couldn’t figure out what that importance was. Now I understand, all thanks to Vonnegut directly explaining it to me. After reading this quote from the novel, I went back to every time the line is mentioned, and I found my suspicions to be correct. “So it goes” is said directly following any mentioning of death.
Whether the death is intentional or accidental, horrendous or gentle, it is all equalized in the aspect that death is inescapable, and life will go on. Because the deceased had a life of fine moments, it is pointless to dwell on that one terrible moment of their death. Being an anti-war novel, Vonnegut did this on purpose to send a paralyzing message about war. Vonnegut takes something as haunting as death and makes it completely meaningless with a simple phrase, just as war has made death meaningless by taking the lives of millions with no repercussions. With death being the only thing he is surrounded by, the main character of Billy Pilgrim shrugs it off and accepts the fact that death is unavoidable, just as the Tralfamadorians have taught him to do.
In Chapter Two, Vonnegut introduces the novel’s main character, Mr. Billy Pilgrim. Right off the bat, we are told Billy Pilgrim has become “unstuck in time.” Jumping from one point in his life to another, I am transported in time with Billy through his life events, including being drafted into WWII and surviving the bombing of Dresden, Germany.
Wait. Where have I heard this before? Are you telling me this is a semi-autobiographical novel of Kurt Vonnegut? Vonnegut, you sneaky fly.
Following surviving the bombing at Dresden and a plane crash that killed his companions, suffering from a “mild nervous collapse,” and losing his wife “accidentally” to carbon-monoxide poisoning, Billy Pilgrim writes to a news organization about being abducted by an alien race called Tralfamadorians. This then begs the question: Did Billy really get abducted by aliens?
Now, hear me out on this. I believe in aliens. I even have a space and UFO tattoo! However, I do not believe aliens were responsible for abducting Billy Pilgrim and putting him in a nude petting zoo(That really did happen, according to Billy). It’s extremely likely that Billy Pilgrim suffers from some form of PTSD. After seeing the aftermath of the Dresden firestorm and witnessing multiple deaths of war comrades, friends, and loved ones, it’s not hard to imagine why Pilgrim would develop PTSD. Hallucinations and delusions are among the common symptoms of this affliction, especially among war veterans. The Tralfamadorians wouldn’t be the first hallucination Billy has had. Written on page 49 during Billy’s time behind enemy lines, “Billy Pilgrim was having a delightful hallucination.”
The Tralfamadorians, then, are a delusion onset by Pilgrim’s PTSD that help Billy to cope with the immeasurable death around him.
Aliens are totally real, though.