The twentieth century brought forth a lot of change and advancements in many fields of life. And these changes and advancements created many new and radical ideas. As a result of these radical ideas, the postmodernism movement in literature took place. The most significant advancements are revealed in the era of Postmodernism. Postmodernism is clearly defined that there is no single truth and that events don’t take place in a fixed order (Ebner). Many of these events don’t actually go in a chronological order. Many historians and literary critics have claimed that postmodernism was formed due to the reactions of the Modernist movement after World War II. The introduction of Postmodernism to the world was by Jean-François Lyotard in his publication of The Postmodernism Condition. The movement spanned from the late 20th century to early 21st century, more precisely after World War II when the world had been shaken by the destruction of life. Historians have believed that Postmodernism didn’t quite originate from a specific place or location but rather in different forms in different regions. Many of the ideas and beliefs of the postmodernist movement had spawned from Modernism yet it cannot be considered or defined as a part of Modernism. Postmodernism as a whole isn’t just based on one theme or one motif but the collection of various themes from various regions in the US. The use of figurative language in Postmodernism is used to it highest potential. Participation, paranoia, magical realism, paradox, and pastiche are few of the characteristics portrayed in different novels. Major characteristics in postmodernism is irony, intertextuality, and black humor. The impact of World War II created a explosion of new themes and beliefs that hadn’t existed before. Consequently, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five demonstrates the themes of irony, black humor, and intertextuality which can allow it to be categorized under the Postmodernism movement.Many new authors sprung up during this time period that attained the level of achievement like Mark Twain or Ernest Hemingway. The most notable author of that time was Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut was born on November 11, 1922 in Indianapolis, Indiana to German-American parents. In 1940, he went to Cornell University as a chem major but dropped out and joined the US army. He was deployed in Europe and was captured by Germans and imprisoned in an underground meat locker known as Schlachthof-Funf which is translated to Slaughterhouse-Five. He witnesses the firebombing of Dresden and is later liberated by the Russian Army. His experience as a prisoner of war is depicted through his themes of black humor and irony in his novels and short stories. Vonnegut has written numerous novels, short stories, Broadway plays, and essays. His anti-war science fiction masterpiece Slaughterhouse-Five is based on his experience as a POW. Slaughterhouse-Five is the most appreciated novel by Vonnegut in which he expresses his strong morals and displays his unique writing style. He is known for his use of satire and black humor in mostly all of his works. Vonnegut died on April 11, 2007 at the age of eighty-four.However, his works aren’t the only ones to have represented the postmodernist movement. He simply made it more known and appreciated through his works but The Simpsons by Matt Groening (Ebner) is believed to have spread the word of postmodernism outside of the US to other parts of the world. Vonnegut has managed to stay true to his writing style by just portraying instances of irony and satire. Therefore, he is linked specifically to this literary movement and not any other ones.Books during the Postmodernism movement blurred the distinction between fiction and nonfiction (Ebner). The most suitable book that defines this movement is Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Not going in depth, the book is mainly about a soldier named Billy Pilgrim who continuously relives his life at different points in time. The main protagonist Billy Pilgrim is blasted into different parts of his life like his marriage or his time as a prisoner of war in Europe. Vonnegut has fully exerted the use of science fiction by introducing the planet Tralfamadore (Shear). Vonnegut writes that the protagonist is captured by aliens called the Tralfamadorians. Billy Pilgrim is transported into different times for e.g. “Billy blinked in 1958, traveled in time to 1961.” The transitions from one event to another is not as smooth as one would expect it to be. This in turn reflects the life of a man in modern times. The confusing use of chronology in Slaughterhouse-Five can be described as confusing just like a man’s life (The Drexel Connection to Slaughterhouse-Five). There is an extensive use of intertextuality in Slaughterhouse-Five. Intertextuality means the use of another text in shaping or making clear the actual meaning of the novel. On many accounts in the book, Adam and Eve are mentioned in accordance to describing an object or emotion. It is mentioned in the novel that “… Billy stared into the patina of the corporal’s boots, saw Adam and Eve in the golden depths. They were naked. They were so innocent, so vulnerable, so eager to behave decently, Billy Pilgrim loved them.(Vonnegut 53)” Based on the Bible and other religious scriptures portray Adam and Eve as a model of purity and innocence, and the probability of failing in life. According to the Bible, Adam and Eve are forced to leave paradise and roam the Earth which is similar to how Billy is stuck in time and has to wander through time. One of the most important characteristics of Postmodernism is black humor which is prevalent through mostly all of Vonnegut’s works. The famous words used in Slaughterhouse-Five after almost every death is “So it goes.” There is a description of the death of Billy’s fellow soldiers — “They had been discovered and shot from behind. Now they were dying in the snow, feeling nothing, turning the snow to the color of raspberry sherbert. So it goes.(Vonnegut 54).” There are numerous deaths in the novel and everytime Vonnegut ends it without much description “So it goes.” Vonnegut doesn’t take the liberty of making a big deal out of someone’s death and simply moves on as if nothing has happened. Vonnegut was a witness of the Allied firebombing in Dresden and describes this event with great irony. Vonnegut writes “One guy I knew really was shot in Dresden for taking a teapot that wasn’t his.(Vonnegut 1)” He further states “The irony is so great. A whole city gets burned down, and thousands and thousands of people are killed. And this one American foot soldier is arrested in the ruins for taking a teapot. And he’s given a regular trial then he’s shot by a firing squad.(Vonnegut 5)” He mentioned this as a dramatic irony in relation to Derby’s execution. This dramatic irony is compared to the war and how the black humor of a author can cause a war in terms of irony. Slaughterhouse-Five is considered as a anti-war novel so it would be quite ironic to mention that World War II was caused due to an author’s literary work. Numerous books written by Kurt Vonnegut during this time period are based of the characteristics of the Postmodernist Movement.The Postmodernist movement drew forth many of the best authors in the nation during that time. Authors like Hunter Thompson, David Guterson, Sue Munk Kidd, and lastly Kurt Vonnegut (Ebner). And as the movement spread to other parts of the nation, Vonnegut became a well known name for the common literary critics. Obviously, Vonnegut went on to write some of the best selling novels of his time like Cat’s Cradle, Breakfast of Champions, The Sirens of Titan and Slaughterhouse-Five. Yes, all of these novels did utilize the characteristics and figurative language of the Postmodernism movement. None of these books gained as much fame as Slaughterhouse-Five. Many respected authors of today would certainly agree that Slaughterhouse-Five demonstrated the perfect use of irony and satire that made it unique for the Postmodernism movement.
August 8, 2019 0 Comments