Monday, October 26, 2009

humans and animals

Like Tyler, I found that in reading Slaughterhouse-Five I could not decide which questions to include in my presentation because the book leaves so much to unpack! I was particularly drawn to the descriptions of the humans versus the descriptions of the animals, which prove very different despite the overall idea that there exists no free will, that animals and humans are very much the same. I especially like how the humans are described as having a mechanical nature, how they are associated with details related to metallic machines and technology. Animals seem to be associated with their natural, instinctual, innocent nature, the nature that prevents them from even possessing the idea of a possible free will and therefore puts them under the command of the “machines”, or the humans
The Tralfamadorian zoo and its display of Billy Pilgrim show quite plainly what Billy and the other Earthlings really are, more animals. The Earthling habitat that consists of everything out of a Sears catalogue proves that the Tralfamadorians see the materialistic nature of humans, the nature that proves their habits and actions monetarily and technologically based and therefore adds to their mechanical attributes. Even the way that Billy interacts with the exhibit proves that he follows a structured routine, almost like a robot; it does not even seem that Billy knows why he even does everything he does, from shaving to exercising and cleaning his dishes. When asked if he is happy there, he replies “About as happy as I was on Earth”, proving that this routine is something that he practices no matter where he is because it is the only way he knows how to live. Billy and his Earthling routine bring up the question of what it means to be happy, or what some humans perceive as happiness. For Billy, happiness is somewhat passive; his routines make him “happy” or at least satisfy his needs. In a way Billy is very similar to animals because he falls to routines that are merely for getting by, although his routines may prove somewhat unnecessary in comparison to the survival habits of animals.
The Tralfamadorian emphasis on Billy’s nakedness seems to be an important detail that changes Billy’s perception of beauty and outlook on life. The Tralfamadorians think that Billy’s naked state is the most beautiful, hence why he must not wear clothing in his exhibit. This praise for Billy’s body gives Billy a sense of self-worth that he does not get from Earth. The one time his naked body is examined on Earth by mechanical men of the army, it is deemed weak and almost useless, emphasizing Billy’s lack of perfection rather than his important function as a human being. Because the Tralfamadorians can see the beauty in Billy’s somewhat imperfect body, Billy is able to see the beauty in his other experiences with nakedness and even naked truths. The Tralfamadorians therefore imprint their ideas of Earthlings on Billy and allow him to view his home planet in a light that is different from his fellow Earthlings. In a way this insight allows Billy to see Earth as something other than materialism and capitalism, placing his views closer to animals than other humans. His new views undermine the previous and show the ridiculousness behind the views of some of the other humans, or the ridiculousness behind those who place a huge emphasis on what is not natural or naked. The Tralfamadorians, though fictional characters, allow insight into what is truthful to the author, or what the author believes the truth behind human nature really is, this universal nakedness that puts humans on the same level as animals.

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