Vonnegut interestingly manipulates the memory of the human mind. In Slaughterhouse 5 he uses the fluidity of memory to show how it is not linear but more flexible than that. He constantly plays with time to accentuate how it is in no order and is often repeated, it is cyclical and moving. He uses phrases like “So it goes” to show how time marches on, but the expansive use of it showing how it marches again and again with the same ending; death. In chapter four Vonnegut also plays with the chronical order in which things happen in a different order and it changes the significance of them. Time is important and how you remember it is as well. Once someone notices the pattern that life is repeating itself, it is not something you are fated to. The order of events does matter.
The prime example of how the order of events happens is in sibling rivalries. My growing up with three sisters has tutored me in the arts of cause and effect, and then the effect when the orders are mixed. If my sister hit me first and I yell to my mom to intervene with some sort of capital punishment for the insult my sister is quick to rebut that I hit her first. She then tells this long tale of how five days ago I tripped her at the mall. The story is not even one I remember, and would never admit to remembering, but she remembers it clearly down to what I was wearing. I on the other hand simply remember I bought a cute red top that day. Her memory of the day was much different from anything I could recall from that fateful day that led to her revenge.
She took her retribution from a memory that she thought completely justified the action and my mom simply rolls her eyes and tells us to get along or some benign unfulfilled threat will be enacted. But second sister helpfully chimes in that she was the one that tripped my other sister and that it happened after we were even at the mall. All three of us have such clear difference in the fluidity of what happened, yet it all happened at the same time. At one point we probably all have tripped each other and hit one another. The time isn’t important and it may seem that the sequence of events is important, yet we all have such different accounts of the chain of events.
The order of time does matter but the fallacy of the human brain nullifies the recording of the events and why they happened. The only thing that can be accounted for is the result at that exact moment, for example the fact that I had just been smacked. And that memory will quickly fade and become a subjective account of what occurred. The phrase “So it goes” (Vonnegut pg 19). Is used after the death of Lot’s wife. It becomes an expression used after many of the deaths of characters. It seems to be an accepted phrase to move on in the story. That is all that is written after someone’s death, a marking and a movement on. A sign of giving up under the feet of the marching of time. Not only is it used in Billy’s story but it first comes from Vonnegut’s direct interaction with his audience, making it part of the fantasy and story but also real life.
The Tralfamadorians, the aliens that abduct Billy, teach him that time is always going in one direction and there is no changing it. Every action will always lead to the same conclusion. Vonnegut is contradicting their beliefs. Billy sees a program on his television but he sees it in reverse. Instead of it being about the war, he sees it backwards and the same events occur simply in a different order. “Everybody turned into a baby, and all humanity, without exception, conspired biologically to produce two perfect people named Adam and Eve, he supposed (Vonnegut pg 64-65). And unlike the champange he popped before viewing the movie and finding it flat life simply cannot be willed away with ‘so it goes’. There is a resolution and way to change the end result.
Vonnegut was not talking about defeating death in the literal sense, but defeating the senseless loss of it. In wars and conflict over events that have been caused by some unseen domino that no one longer remembers. Conflicts that wage over tensions that were before the soldiers great- grandparents were born. The soldiers who risk and lose their lives in the complete prideful chaos.