Slaughterhouse-Five

Let’s take a more conceptual approach to deconstruction and Slaughterhouse-Five.  Rather than deconstructing the text (or parts of it), let’s instead ponder the central concerns of Derrida and Vonnegut as two “theorists” of language.  In what ways are their ideas about language and referentiality related?  What are the differences?  Please answer in 100 words by Thursday morning at 9 am.

28 thoughts on “Slaughterhouse-Five

  1. Vonnegut is very repetitive and straightforward with his writing. He repeats the phrase “so it goes” many times. He shows everything as very matter of fact, things just happen in life. Derrida is long winded and difficult to understand, arguments laced with fancy words and phrases. Vonnegut jumps around a lot in the story, not keeping a clear timeline throughout the book. Jumping back and fourth between the war of the past and Billy’s present day. Derrida had a straightforward point that was difficult to understand due to the wording, but presented ideas in a “point A to point B” fashion. Derrida thrives off of fancy language and references, while Vonnegut is very utilitarian, using language as a tool and not getting too fancy.

    • I agree. Derrida is almost playing a game with the reader when he uses language. He seems to me at least to be trying to confuse the reader. It is almost as if Derrida uses language as a tool to deconstruct language (if that makes sense I could have worded it better). Vonnegut is repetitive and doesn’t use language in the same way as Derrida. Like you said it is more straightforward. I also think that there are more double meanings within Derrida’s use of language that are not present in Vonnegut’s work. However, Vonnegut’s structure is more complicated than his language use, which is a connection between the two writers.

  2. Derrida and Vonnegut each make their readers “work” to understand their writing; neither writes in a straightforward or traditional form. Where Derrida purposefully runs his audience in circles to make a point about literary theory, Vonnegut uses similar techniques to apply meaning to his fiction. Vonnegut may have a more straightforward approach to the actual story he writes, but still utilizes confusing form and repetition as Derrida draws from deeper theoretical language and writes around a more complex concept overall. Both authors have similarly abstract approaches to literature and our perception of the world, while they express this in slightly different ways.

    • I agree with you on what you mean by both of them making the reader work to understand what they wrote. When reading it, it was a bit difficult to understand because they don’t write in a normal or traditional sense. Vonnegut just repeats the same thing over and over again, whereas, with Derrida kind of seems all over the place in my opinion. Both use language in different ways to get their message across, as the others have mentioned, Vonnegut does have a bit of a straightforward approach but even though he does, he only repeats the same information over again. With Derrida, it almost seems as if he is purposely trying to confuse the readers with his message. Yet, they both have their own ways of expressing their information.

  3. Kurt Vonnegut wrote Slaughterhouse-Five in a time influenced by the rise of deconstruction, and Derrida’s outlooks on language and meaning can be witnessed throughout the book. Vonnegut utilizes the fact that language can mean the opposite of what it says when he discusses Billy’s son fighting in Vietnam; there is no verbal signal that the narration disapproves of the Vietnam War, but the audience attains this message through the context of the novel. Much of the novel, in fact, explores how death, its meaning, and its impact is changed once the factor of time’s linear progression is removed. One could argue, after all, that linear time is one of the most inherent transcendental signifieds we possess. While both men push the boundaries of conventional signification, Vonnegut differs from Derrida in an important way: he uses deconstruction’s implications for language to support an anti-war thesis, whereas Derrida envisions deconstruction as an end unto itself.

  4. Both Vonnegut and Derrida are confusing writers to read. Kurt Vonnegut’s writing tends to be simple and dull, he uses short sentences and avoids being wordy. Although he isn’t wordy he is repetitive. Vonnegut’s simplicity shows in his writing because he writes as if everything is realistic and straightforward. Derrida seems to be to intellectual causing his readers to be confused and not understanding the points he is trying to get across. Vonnegut is simplistic, whereas Derrida is the exact opposite, he is very intricate. His intricate style of writing derives from his philosophical views. They are similar in the way of making the reader put effort into what they are reading.

    • I agree with you that Vonnegut uses a style that is short, abrupt, and repetitive while Derrida does almost the exact opposite. With Derrida he is trying to get the reader to play games with language while doing it himself and although it is harder to see in “Slaughterhouse 5”, I think the same thing is happening. When one phrase is repeated so often it allows the reader to interpret it different ways each time which Derrida would want a reader to do to a text. The major difference between the two writers is that Derrida exemplifies what he is talking about in his writing and Vonnegut creates work that leaves it open for readers to interpret.

  5. It was difficult to read both Vonnegut and Derrida’s writing. I had to reread several times until I got a better understanding of what they were trying to say. As other blog posts have mentioned Vonnegut’s writing has a lot of repetition almost like he is trying to drill the topic into your mind. Then you have Derrida who likes to show his intelligence by using fancy words. Vonnegut is very straightforward with his writing and it is a bit simpler to understand what he is trying to say. Derrida is very complicated and philosophical with his writing.

    • I definitely agree with your argument! The reading was quite complex and intricate, and I had to go back and read it several times over. The repetitive phrases and contexts used by Vonnegut are rather hammering, and the repetition almost seems to play deliberately with “Slaughterhouse Five” because of the lapses in time and the unreliability of the narrator (the narrator’s mystery and compromise are also purposeful, and in fact, the narrator’s un-helpfulness is indeed a coined strategy used by authors). Whereas Vonnegut is simple, Derrida is intelligent and often philosophical to a point of near genius.

  6. Both Derrida and Vonnegut seemingly understand the ambiguity of meaning and how to avoid a certain level of structuralism in their own writings. While this was a very clear decision for Derrida (who was an outward proponent of deconstructionist thinking), it seemed like an almost subtle choice for Vonnegut in ‘Slaughterhouse-Five,’ where he expertly weaves a tale of time and the fragility of the human experience. It seems as though these two men would certainly be in agreement that form is merely a social construct and, as such, does not delve deep enough into a work to be a quality means of critical analysis.

  7. Both Vonnegut and Derrida use language in order to dissect the center of a literary piece and what happens when a work is left with no center. When looking at Slaughterhouse-Five one notices that the story Vonnegut tells lacks any linear narrative and circles back to both significant and insignificant phrases and themes. Readers are left wondering if he is aiming to critic war or create a never-ending loop of interrelated events to show the pointless cycle of war itself. The way one stitches these overarching phrases and themes together and how one explains their relation provides the center of the narrative and is what Derrida would describe as free play. When Derrida writes his pieces he does so in a way where readers can be aware that there is no greater center, just an endless stream of thought that explains an idea. His ability to use language as an accessory that lacks significant substance is the overall difference between him and Vonnegut.

  8. Both of these men are able to recognize the instability in humanity, the need to create, yet to destroy, the need to release emotion and remain private at the same time, and how humans rely on language to do so. Derrida and Vonnegut both also focus on an untraceable center. Vonnegut, however uses shorter syntax and repetition of phrases, identifying a clear cut purpose for writing- irony and contradiction against war. Derrida, as shown by his own writing, believes that a center can’t be pinned down and identified, creating an experience different to each reader.

  9. Vonnegut uses many rhetorical devices to both confuse the reader and to also convey his own feelings about writing this novel, while Derrida uses difficult language and very round about phrases to consciously confuse his audience, thus proving his own point about deconstructionism. Both Vonnegut and Derrida realizes that many of the words and phrases they use can have double meanings, but while Derrida exploits this in an almost malicious way to convey his point about the lack of center, Vonnegut is more direct in his word play and has a more obvious meaning (that can, obviously, be broken down in to many different possibilities). Vonnegut does not try to over complicate his writing, but instead uses his writing to get lost in almost a tangential stream of conscious way- he writes as though he is accidentally getting too pulled into a topic and then suddenly cuts it off and goes back to the plot line; Derrida does not get lost in tangents, but instead, he does overcomplicate his language to make it look like a tangent even when it is not.

  10. The most obvious difference between Kurt Vonnegut and Jacques Derrida is their writing style. Vonnegut writes using more everyday language, and his sentence structure is more choppy than Derrida’s. If his sentences were made of music notes instead of words, it would be a bunch of quarter notes. Derrida’s writing is filled with more complex language and his sentences are a lot more flowy. His writing is like arpeggios and sixteenth notes. Their writing styles are both similar in that both writers write in a way that allows for multiple interpretations of their writing. They both want the readers to find multiple meanings in their works. Vonnegut does this using his choppy language and by going off on tangents, while Derrida does this through his use of complicated language and flowing sentences; both of which work to hide the center of the text.

  11. Vonnegut and Derrida both understand how a piece of literature works from a deconstructive point of view, specifically when the center of a text is removed. Derrida explains that when the center of a literary piece is absent, in turn there is no subject or author. He says that even if the center is found, what emerges from it cannot be solved or unraveled. This is seen in the language used in Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse five.” The repetition of the phrase, “And so it goes,” seems to keep the story moving in a circular motion without solving anything, which causes readers to question the subject of the novel.

  12. Derrida and Vonnegut both display vast control over their language by integrating the lack of a center in their work through their syntax. Through Derrida’s flowing, complex sentences, he emphasizes the idea that literary works are liberated through the “absence of a transcendental signified.” The fluidity of his own words amplifies the importance of removing a work’s center. On the other hand, Vonnegut’s style is marked by concise, stark, and repetitive syntax. The spiraling nature of the story paired with his style ironically perpetuates the lack of a center, almost as if it is circling around it.

  13. Derrida and Vonnegut both write in a way to convince the reader of what they believe in. However, Derrida uses long, eloquent run-ons to build up to his points, then quotes others who he seems to deem on his “level” (his writing is very pretentious to me. Beautiful, but pretentious.) On the other hand, Vonnegut uses short, cut and dry sentences to get his point across. He explains experiences he had with people to show how is beliefs were shaped. In all, they both want the readers to eventually come to believe the same things that they do, however, Derrida uses less direct ways of getting to the point to make the reader enjoy the trip, while Vonnegut gets the reader to the point quickly.

  14. While I agree that Derrida seems to be running circles around readers, or even playing with them, I wonder at times if he even realizes that he’s doing that… Which, I suppose it’s obvious that he would have to, but it still feels like he’s on autopilot when reading his stuff. It’s almost like in finding the right words to use… he just ends up using all of them. Whereas Vonnegut feels as though you’re along the ride with him, it’s like every line is just his thought-process on the page, but it doesn’t feel intentional, just… necessary? (for himself if no one else). But also I think that’s where a lot of his repetitiveness comes from, like the book version of people that say “um” between every other word when they talk.

  15. Derrida and Vonnegut both understand the foundations of deconstruction. Specifically, both recognize the importance of a lack of center and implement that idea in different methods. Derrida implements a lack of center through complicated language that can often confuse the reader, while making his literary critiques. On the other hand, Vonnegut uses concise language to further his plot; however, he furthers his plot in a cyclical, intertwined manner by jumping to and from various scenarios in the novel and by using repetitive diction. Both authors aim to mask the centers of their texts, as a means to complicate meaning.

  16. Derrida and Vonnegut, although they are very different authors, seem to share that central notion of “play” in their writings. Derrida, obviously, makes it a key point in his writing, often discussing it as a central part of his theory. Vonnegut tends to use it in practice. This is evident in how he uses the term “so it goes.” Although initially said to denote death, it gradually sort of shifts its meaning, encompassing a broader scope of more abstract and metaphorical deaths, as well as distant mentions of death, some of which might even go unnoticed, if not for the phrase.

  17. Both of the authors have a good sense of what makes deconstruction good (or confusing). Derrida has a very childlike sense of deconstruction, he often has a very playful sense of tone, and seems to be toying with his readers. This can make him annoying to read, but still insightful to the ideology of deconstruction. Vonnegut has a similar sense of a playful personality and he also has a deep understanding of deconstruction. His story is filled with repetitive toying and feelings of strangeness. His favorite phrase “so it goes” can have many meanings throughout the first few chapters, and is repeated so often that we know it is important.

  18. Both Derrida and Vonnegut seem to agree upon this style of language that is very simplistic yet realize this little speech is much grander than subjected. I would refer to this as minimalist writing that many writers before have used to convey syntax. Derrida’s procedure can be seen used by Vonnegut for his exploitation of the meaning: “to deconstruct the innumerable binary oppositions”. This is done through characters that can inform real awareness through the story. Aside from this, Vonnegut also uses the idea of what is reality and what is merely an illusion through his character Billy. Derrida called this the Reality of Universals where the appearance of people, places, or things are given their own story whereas the reality of those people, places, or things are terribly misinterpreted and warped into something attractive.

  19. Through this reading we see that Derrida and Vonnegut, that although both the author have different styles of writing they show their skills of deconstruction. Derrida brings up the notion of deconstructing the literature the idea that this style of writings is consistently going around and around. While Vonnegut uses certain that seems more of the everyday person. In a more run on manner. Derrida uses more fluent tonwme but does similar motions of deconstruction to what Vonnegut does.

  20. Both Derrida and Vonnegut seem to have a deep understanding of the concepts of deconstruction, and utilize this understanding to their advantage in their writing. Both see language as malleable, using words and phrases in their writing that evolve over the course of events to have multiple meanings. What separates the two is how Derrida has a writing style that reads as more sophisticated than Vonnegut, still confusing in the fact that the language can be at times hard to follow, but overall has a well-established flow. Vonnegut, on the other hand, tends to fragment his sentences, which are typically very short and to the point, sometimes seen as kind of choppy and hard to follow.

  21. In both Derrida and Vonnegut’s writings you can see how literal they approach their writings. Of course, that’s what deconstruction is. But, I am amazed how different the two approach the same theory. Derrida is right to the point, and almost too sure on the way “it is” and repeats the same information but brilliantly in a way that sounds new to his audience. He in a way wants to outsmart his readers.
    Vonnegut on the other hand, throws deconstruction into a story. A story that has to be explained as “it’s nothing else” kind of way, but also uses more personal input into it. Vonnegut also talks in a way where it’s easier to understand because it sounds like a memoir. The both of the writers both write in a way where they feel as if they keep having to prove to their readers that this theory is correct and should be used more often. The term “so it goes” indicates that Vonnegut carries on with the same mindset and isn’t planning on changing his mind; Derrida does the same when he uses constant rhetorical questions to also prove why this is right, ect.

  22. Vonnegut seems rather straightforward in regard to his use of language. One would have little trouble understanding the message being portrayed so long as the jumpy, almost erratic form of his book does not throw them off. Rather than a simple A leads to B style of storytelling, Vonnegut seems to favor telling all possible aspects that lead to a single conclusion. Though mildly irritating, this method would appear favorable to Derrida’s work in my eyes. Derrida seems to enjoy a rather complicated use of language, as if someone took a simple sentence and replaced all the words with fancy sounding synonyms. It would appear both writers use their distinct methods to avoid creating a center in their work, allowing the principles of deconstruction to be applied.

  23. Vonnegut’s form of writing was not linear, but it was still easy to understand, especially because of the repetitive phrase like “so it goes”. While both understood the importance of taking away some key elements, Derrida was different in the fact that he wrote more linearly, and had points that lead to another point. Similarly to what a lot of my classmates wrote, I also noticed that Derrida had a more difficult and structured way of writing, for example, the way he used difficult terms to get across his points. Whereas, Vonnegut used a form of writing that I could clearly understand, which made me think about the meaning behind his structure use more.

  24. Derrida uses confusing language to get his point across, and is very careful about stating exactly what it is he’s trying to get across. This wish to not be misunderstood is possibly what contributes to the density of his writing – in attempting to clarify his point, he ends up obscuring it.
    Vonnegut, on the other hand, uses easier to understand vernacular. This makes it at least a little easier to play around with his writing and extract multiple meanings from it. That is not to say Vonnegut is clear. His writing is non-linear, and takes a few readings to puzzle out the timeline of events, whereas Derrida, as my classmates have previously stated, writes in a ore typical point to point to point style.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *