There are events in an individual’s life when they have to accept something just for what it is. As hard as it may be to swallow it, complaining or commenting on it to improve it would not be acceptable. Death, in the novel, Slaughterhouse Five, is depicted as a part of the book that the characters have to accept in order to move on with their lives. Billy Pilgrim, the main character of Slaughterhouse Five, is shown a life of acceptance with a quote about the world’s conclusion, the Tralfamadorians, and by the frequently used phrase, "so it goes."
Before realizing that death is a mere moment in life, Billy shows fear of the end of the universe,
"How-how does the Universe end?" said Billy.
"We blow it up, experimenting with new fuels for our flying saucers. A Tralfamadorian test pilot presses a starter button, and the whole Universe disappears." So it goes.
"If you know this," said Billy, "isn’t there some way you can prevent it? Can’t you keep the pilot from pressing the button?"
"He has always pressed it, and he always will. We always let him and we always will let him. The moment is structured that way."
"So" – said Billy gropingly, "I suppose that the idea of preventing war on Earth is stupid, too."
"Of course" (117).
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Billy’s mindset was only focused on the life after death, or what would happen to him after he had taken his last breath, but he soon finds out that its no use of thinking those thoughts. Fearing death was simply an obstacle that Billy had to conquer in order to find that death was just a moment in time. In the passage, the tone of his voice shows fear as he is conversing with the Tralfamadorians with a "groping" voice. Even though he shows fright now, later he always has a view that only concentrates on the brighter side of life. This conversation is crucial to Billy’s idea of acceptance because it reveals the mindset that Billy has before learning from the Tralfamadorians. Finding out that the end of the universe would not matter gives Billy more of a reason to live his life in happiness as it relieves him of any fear related to death.
The Tralfamadorians, who dramatically change Billy’s view of death, has a great part in this book and in Billy’s acceptance to issues of death. When Billy meets the Tralfamadorians for the first time, Billy asks them the question, "why me (Billy)?" And the Tralfamadorians simply reply to him by saying, "there is no why" (77). The Tralfamadorians meant that there was no reason why one should cling onto life and death. They have known that death is only a part of life, and to share this good news, they chose Billy to illustrate their views to others of this world. Next, the Tralfamadorians want is for the people of earth to "Ignore the awful times, and concentrate on the good ones" since life on earth is only a part of a cycle (117). By ignoring the awful times, people would be able to live a life of happiness, which is demonstrated throughout this book by Billy. If one is willing to believe that the idea of acceptance is based on their mindset, the Tralfamadorians would have done their job. After understanding the words of the Tralfamadorians, Billy states, "Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is "So it goes"" (27). This relates to the power that the Tralfamadorians have on Billy as the deaths of Billy’s loved ones would not matter to him, as he would just shake it off and move on. The lesson that the Tralfamadorians give greatly impacts Billy and gives him a whole new perspective of the world. If the Tralfamadorians were not a part of this book, the plot would have been a life of a normal man living in a time of war.
As this book takes place during wartime, deaths are frequent in this novel. Billy experiences these deaths, and he learns to say, "so it goes" and move on with his life. After his plane crash, the narrator explains, "While Billy was recuperating in a hospital in Vermont, his wife died accidentally of carbon-monoxide poisoning. So it goes," bringing up one of the earlier deaths of this book (25). This event is obviously a tragic part of this book as Billy’s wife, Valencia, passes away. But when Billy finds out, he does not show a sign of tears or sadness about this heartbreaking event. He moves on as he knows to concentrate on the joyous times of life, not times of losing loved ones, Valencia, being an example. After a time of bombing, Billy hears that, "The atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima killed 71,379 people. So it goes" (p. 188). This time, a mass population of lives was gone; yet, it did not bother Billy at all. A similar incident happened when Billy was at Dresden, but since he survives it, he carries on, forgetting what just happened and visits a motel close by. Finally, Billy hears that Charles Darwin had said, "Who taught that those who die are meant to die, that corpses are improvements. So it goes" and Billy seems to agree with this opinion (210). The corpses in this quote refer to moment in life when we realize that death is only an instant, revealing the cycle in life. Though death might be a tragedy or a misfortune, the Tralfamadorians teach Billy, that death is not the end, but is a mere moment in life. Death is always an issue that is very hard to let go, especially if it is of someone you deeply care about, but in this book, Billy demonstrates how it is no use of clinging onto someone’s death, but to move on with our lives.
The block quote of earth’s conclusion, the Tralfamadorians, and the quote, "so it goes" was the three main ideas of acceptance in this book. We all know that this book is fiction, but if in fact death was merely a moment in time, we would be as calm as Billy was about death, as we would not have any worries of how our lives would conclude. It is even hard to swallow the fact that death can be a moment in time, but no one would ever find out until they experience death themselves.
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