Chapter 4

Billy licked his lips, thought a while, inquired at last: “Why me?”

“That is a very Earthling question to ask, Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber?”

“Yes.” Billy, in fact, had a paperweight in his office which was a blob of polished amber with three lady-bugs embedded in it.

“Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why.”

Pg. 77

In my “Chapter 2” blog post, I talked about the Tralfamadorians being a figment of Billy Pilgrim’s imagination– a delusion and series of hallucinations brought on by his PTSD. This quote only furthers my notion.

The Tralfamadorians, according to this quote, don’t believe in free will. In fact, at the very end of the chapter, it’s shown that the Tralfamadorians had never previously heard of free will before studying Earth when Vonnegut writes, “‘If I hadn’t spent so much time studying Earthlings,’ said the Tralfamadorian, ‘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”'(86).

This absence of free will ties into the logic behind “So it goes.” According to the Tralfamadorians, everything is sealed in fate, like bugs sealed in amber. Death is no exception. How men are set to die cannot be altered. Therefore, it is senseless to obsess over death because everything simple is. Death is inevitable, and there is nothing that can be done to undermine fate’s natural course. So it goes.

Chapter 4 is out of this world. I mean this quite literally. After his daughter’s wedding, Billy Pilgrim is abducted by the infamous Tralfamadorians. As he is being transported back to Tralfamadore, along with pieces of human furniture for his “artificial habitat in a zoo on Tralfamadore,” Billy becomes unstuck in time once again.

He is back as a prisoner of war. Billy, along with the other prisoners of war, are taken to a roadside prison where they are ordered to strip and bathe. What’s interesting in this chapter is a particular quote from page 83 which states, “Billy did as he was told, took off his clothes. That was the first thing they told him to do on Tralfamadore, too.”

Now, if you still want to believe that Billy Pilgrim was actually abducted by aliens, that’s fine. To me, however, more evidence, such as the quote from page 83, amplifies the idea that Billy Pilgrim’s inability to cope with the traumatic events he faced in WWII is manifesting itself in the form of the hallucinations of Tralfamadorians. These Tralfamadorians, coincidentally, order Billy to do the same humiliating actions he was forced to do in the war. Also stated in my “Chapter 2” blog and also written above, the Tralfamadorians give philosophical advice pertaining to how to deal with death and the disheartening hands of fate, all of which Billy struggled with while in combat.

Line by line, word by word, I am developing a strange fixation for this novel. So, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to read chapter five of Slaughterhouse-Five. I’ll get back to you all in a while.

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