While I always considered myself to be an avid reader, the main reason I chose to study English literature was to strengthen my analytical skills that could be applied to any future graduate program or even career. The skills of interpretation that we learn as English majors allow us to understand many aspects of life through a variety of lenses, such as war and peace in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. While the instances that occur within the novel may be fiction, our interpretation of the events help shape our own understanding of the characters’ realities. We all have our favorite and least favorite character in a novel for specific reasons. While I may like a certain character for one reason, my favorite character could be the least favorite of the person sitting next to me. It all depends on our individual interpretation and perception of what occurs in the novel.
In Mary Rose O’Reilley’s “The Peaceable Classroom,” she states that by allowing students to interpret literature themselves, they can better apply their understanding to their own lives and reason why they view the world as they do. They must first understand their own viewpoints before they can understand others’. Similarly, in Irving and Harriet Deer’s “Satire as a Rhetorical Play,” they state that we project our understanding on historical events and interpret them in different ways from each other. I can best compare this to those who agree and disagree with wars that have occurred lately. While the same war is happening, many different people understand it in different ways. Some think that it is best to continue to fight while others wholeheartedly disagree. And then there are those who change their minds after careful study and questioning of their beliefs. Vonnegut asks his readers to question our beliefs, such as the existence of aliens like the Tralfamadorians. It is important to figure out why we believe in something rather than just blindly accepting something as true. In this way, Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five challenges us to question our beliefs and explain our reasoning behind them.