Vonnegut and the Concept of Free Will: an Anti-Tralfamadorian Way of Life
by Grace Stainback
“Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.”
Yes, that does sound nice, doesn
t it? Yes, it does, Billy Pilgrim might think tohimself. He coins the phrase in reference to death; it occurs to him that “everythingwas beautiful, and nothing hurt” would be a ﬁtting epitaph for his tombstone (Vonnegut155). But Billy need not be buried under a tombstone to identify with this mantra; hespends his entire life turning an apathetic cheek to pain, rationalizing destruction, andneutralizing terror.
Billy Pilgrim, Kurt Vonnegut
s desensitized hero in Slaughterhouse-Five, comesto terms with a lot of terrible things in the course of his life. To do so, he adopts anexplanation which would help anybody deal with terrible things: there is simply nothingwe can do about it. And such is the complex dilemma underlying Slaughterhouse-Five:How do we deal with tragedy? How do we explain it? Can we prevent it? Are there anylaws to life, and if so, do humans have any say in what these are?
Does free will even exist
Kurt Vonnegut spins us a tale of Billy Pilgrim and his friends from outer space,who assure him that free will is a mirage and death hardly anything to shed a tearover. But the discernibly paciﬁstic nature of Slaughterhouse-Five shows the readerthat for Vonnegut,
everything is beautiful. A lot of things
hurt. And we, as moralhumans, have a responsibility to acknowledge that pain and create meaning of it.Using Billy as an antithesis for his own convictions, Kurt Vonnegut tackles the issue of