Saturday, 23 April 2011

What's Up with the Tralfamadorians?

Reading Slaughter-House Five, the only thing that really takes the audience by surprise is Billy's founded belief in Tralfamadore and it's inhabitants. Billy seems to be normal (remember, that's a relative term), until he begins to go on about his "two feet high, and green, and shaped like plumber's friends" friends. His daughter, Barbara, thought the same thing. He's gone bonkers.
 Maybe there is a planet called Tralfamadore somewhere, and maybe the little creatures do exist, don't ask me, I don't know.

However, there is plenty of textual evidence revealing the development of Billy's mind. 
Billy and Vonnegut both needed closure and an explanation for all the atrocities that had occured during the war. So it goes, what Tralfamadorians say when they see a corpse, at first glance seems to be an apathetic way to address someone who has died. But it makes perfect sense: "One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic". Billy/Vonnegut needed some kind of mechanism to deal and process the immense destruction that they witnessed.

The Tralfamadore philosophy also states that when someone is dead, they are simply having "a bad day", and soon enough they would be reliving their happier moments. This must have been greatly reassuring to Billy, as he saw thousands of people die around him, and knew the manner of his own death.

The Tralfamadorian motif could be understood differently all together: Vonnegut's way of excusing himself from describing war in such a light mannered way. It screams, "Don't take that too seriously, I also believe in this." He is still trying to make sense of it all, and the novel represents this inner struggle.

The sketches above I made while considering this blog post. 

The top sketches were inspired by the Carl Sagan video about the 4th dimension. If 2-D objects can only see 3-D ones as slices, then it would make sense that humans see time as progressive slices. Tralfamadorians see it all as one shape, one continuous Time.

On the left and right side are little drawings of the aliens, just to give an idea of what they are like.

In the centre, I sketched out what I find to be one of the most fascinating things that the Tralfamadorians describe. 

"[They] don't see human beings as two-legged creatures... They see them as great-millipedes -'with babies' legs at one end and old people's legs at the other'"

We are all young, middle-aged and old, simultaneously.

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