Book Review: Slaughterhouse-Five

Editor’s Note:  One of my favorite little aspects of this, one of my favorite books, is the secondary title: “The Children’s Crusade.”  And now on to one of my favorite class-written reviews of this oft-student reviewed classic…

By Casey T.:

The life story of Billy Pilgrim, a joke of a soldier and a prisoner of war caught in the bombing of Dresden Germany in 1945 is told from an outer perspective highlighting Pilgrim’s experiences coming unstuck in time and detangling the meaning of his unique past.

Slaughterhouse-Five is a haphazard tale told from a third person point of view. This outer opinion, however, works quite well in the context of the events that take place in this stunning novel.  Since the author was physically present at certain times of this book, the third-person aspect was not at all invisible.  In other well-known novels that use the same point of view, the author lurks behind the true occurrence of the story, thus disguising its authenticity.  On the contrary, Vonnegut weaves the experiences of Pilgrim right past his own, clearly stated by following the quoted material of other, unseen characters with phrases like “That was I. That was me. That was the author of this book.”

Starting a book only aware of its historical appeal and overall prose offers a sense of surprise and discovery that the reader does not fully understand until the first chapter is completed.  The motives and purpose of the book are expressed quite clearly in Chapter 1, told entirely by the author.  Initially confusing, through Chapter 1, wonder yet also frustration is experienced.  Although it is interesting to see how the idea of writing such a book was obtained and how each event is strung together, this aspect is at first puzzling.  However, Vonnegut uses this technique flawlessly, allowing for a smoother transition from the story’s mechanics to its composition.

The science fiction aspect of the narrative is originally hard to grasp. Time traveling is not an easy subject to catch onto quickly, especially when incorporated into what the reader may have thought was purely a historical fiction novel. This alluring spin adds another level of interest, which balances out the murk of how each piece of the story comes together. Towards the beginning, the reader is still new to the plot, yet their interest stabilizes the strong influence of befuddlement.

Deep beneath the shady satirical humor and far beyond the printed words lays the deceiving demeanor of its main message.  Each small event and section has a way of uniting to create the story as a whole.  Slaughterhouse-Five tests the imagination by feeding it an abundance of information and insisting the reader understands and becomes a part of the ideas, opinions, and experiences told.  Its disorderly manner acts as a loop-hole to the seemingly simple mind track we, as humans, stick to.  By jumping back and forth to bits and pieces of events and experiences, as a whole, the book is a failure according to our mind set. Yet, those willing to stick with the confusion and muddle their way past it due to interest develop the creativity that is needed to organize and find familiar themes in each smaller piece. With this, the reader learns to respect how cleverly Vonnegut has combined the plethora of small, meaningless acquaintances.

Vonnegut’s masterpiece is self-distinguished from the typical fiction layout most commonly seen. Often fiction tales, especially in third person start off light and “normal” until a disruption occurs and a problem must be handled.  The climax of the tale comes, then settles back down quite nicely onto a happy ending all told discreetly by an invisible author, loosely connected with the events of the story. These entertain the reader, take them on a small adventure, and return them safely satisfied.

It is rare to see fiction work that requires equal effort from the reader. One who takes a stab at this novel is not encompassed by the typical story flow seen widely in fiction.  In order to receive the satisfaction at the end, the reader must give the thoughts and time needed to complete the book.  This tale is not to be read out of boredom or for pure enjoyment for this reason. To really soak in what all this story has to offer, the reader must put an equal amount of  their energy to allow the story the chance to push the boundaries of one’s understanding.  This isn’t the type of energy commonly seen in fiction that sprouts from the  entertainment one’s mind is receiving from the story; then used to maximize that sense of amusement.

Books such as The Diary of Anne Frank are in part similar to this narrativeas opposed to  other well known non-fiction pieces. Historical aspects are used in that tale too, yet the standard story flow is still present, thus making Slaughterhouse-Five a masterpiece in its own category. Expansion by examining how Vonnegut’s writing style is not a classic example of outstanding American literature, such as Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is possible. Thus, Slaughterhouse-Five is hard to categorize and is quite different from the rest.

Vonnegut had indeed created a novel well fitting of its A-list classification.  For such a story to stir so many unique opinions and distinct ways of interpreting the adventures told in Slaughterhouse-Five and to not have the recognition it deserves would be a frivolous waste of esteemed literature.

Through a combination of strewed events, Slaughterhouse-Five is meant to work itself only into the minds of those willing to analyze and aid the story in its delivery. How else would we think outside the course of our regular, set mind track without given the perfect opportunity to do so in a subtle manner?





Down With the Pennies and Nickels, America!

by Ruby A.: 

In 2006, the cost of minting (i.e., making) one penny began to exceed its face value.  The cost to mint one penny, or nickel, today is almost twice its face value.  This means that every year the United States government is losing money by making money!

New Zealand and Canada have done something about it.  In 1989 New Zealand stopped minting one and two cent coins.  In 2012 Canada did away with one cent coins.  The United States should do the same and stop making pennies and nickels.  In 2011 pennies were minted at 2.41¢, and nickels at 11.18¢, which is, by the way, more than it costs to mint a quarter.  If the government does decide to stop the minting of penny and nickel coins, the existing coins retain their face value and could be used at stores or taken to the bank and put into accounts or traded for paper money.  The banks and stores would then collect the coins, in large quantities, and trade them for paper money.  The Government would then melt the coins and the metal could be used for other, useful, objects.

Pennies and nickels are small and easily lost.  The United States Government Accounting Office has determined that most of the millions of pennies minted each year by the United States government just disappear at the bottom of cars, wallets, and purses.  If most of these coins are just lost, why is the government still minting them?

In 2011 the United States government minted 4,938,540,000 pennies, and 990,240,000 nickels.  By minting all of these coins the U.S. government lost $69,633,414 on minting pennies and $61,196,832 on minting nickels that year, and, as noted above, many of those coins just disappeared.

Against these reasons one might argue that without pennies and nickels something worth, say, $11.04 could not be paid for.  This thought is wrong, and can be solved in a couple of ways.  The easiest is just to pay with a piece of plastic, also known as a credit card.  The other way is just to have the stores round up, or down, on the cost of the object.  If the object is worth $11.04 it can be rounded to $11.05.  This could be paid with a ten dollar bill, three quarters, and three dimes.  It can also be rounded down to $11.00, and is easy enough to pay for.  It may sound complicated, but it is just simple math that everyone should practice every now and then.  One could then argue that it would be expensive, but isn’t.  The difference is just a couple of cents, more or less.

One might also argue that the government should just find a cheaper mix of metals to make the coins out of.  Yet a mix of cheaper metals has been searched for since 2010, with no mix found so far that make minting a penny less than what it is worth.

Even if a mix of metals was found that made minting the penny cheaper the coin would still be useless.  The penny has not been made out of copper in many decades, making the coin feel unreal, almost as if it was play money.  If the composition is changed again, it would be cheaper, but would make it feel even more unreal to the touch.

Pennies and nickels could be counted as patriotic, and some may feel this patriotism is reason enough to continue minting them.  Nevertheless, I argue that Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson, the people on the penny and nickel, would not have liked being represented on coins that cost the government too much money, and are useless.  No self-respecting U.S. President would.

To reiterate, since both the penny and nickel cost more to mint than their face value, the United States government (i.e., Americans including you and I) has lost more than 60 million dollars in one year on each (over 120 million on both pennies and nickels).  Both coins are rarely used and most are lost or just collected at the bottom of wallets, purses, and cars.  If the U.S. government did stop minting pennies and nickels they could still be used as currency, and then melted down into useful objects.  Costs could be changed to make it so that objects could be paid for with the change that is still being minted, one could just pay with credit cards, or stores could change prices to round up or down to come out “even.”

For these reasons everyone should say, “DOWN WITH THE PENNIES AND NICKELS!”

How’d You Like Some Ice-Cream Doc?

Editor’s Note:  Today we share some candor that serves as a bit of mental primer to 6th Graders now, those still to come, and those that somehow lived through the experience.

By:  Anonymous

The sixth grade was the worst year of my life. I was a very sensitive yet self-confident girl going in, and, when I came out, my confidence was shattered and my perspective on the world altered. In sixth grade I realized who my real friends were, developed bad habits and had my first crush.

Most of us come into middle school as children (mentally). Middle school is a far different environment than an elementary school, so upon reaching middle school, we are introduced to sex jokes, insulting eighth graders, sinister influences, and dating.

Coming into middle school our minds are like a ball of yarn. They are put together and organized. As middle school progresses the ball of yarn completely unravels. As animals we learn to adapt to new environments and slowly the ball of yarn reforms for most of us. There may be knots that we cannot take out of our ball of yarn, and sometimes the ball of yarn is badly tangled, but, for most of us over time,  it reforms into something almost resembling our old ball. It is not the same as it used to be, but it is there again. The ball of yarn does not roll back very quickly. It takes quite a while.

In short, sixth grade is the beginning of adolescence for all sixth graders in this sense that they all need to grow up. Not necessarily physically, but mentally. The start of adolescence is when our minds unravel. You need to let yourself grow up in middle school. It will naturally happen if you allow it to. Growing up is not optional in middle school if you want to be happy. If you shun growing up, you will be verbally tortured. Even the nicest people will mock you. This is not something the counselor can control.

5,000 Feet Above The Sea: A New Serialization

Editor’s Note:  We’ve been assured the following is just the beginning of a new serialized long-form work by Jefferson student Ben H.

More to come…

By Ben H.:  

“We need to go, now!” A boy screams as he rushes to grab as many small stuffed animals he can carry. His partner fills a duffel bag with stale sweets and sour suckers. “My god, the sirens are already screaming, we really need to get on the bus.” Two boys both aged nine sprint for a dirty school bus and leap on. The driver slams the acceleration pedal and the kids trip back to their seat. “Thank god you made it!” a frail old lady hugs the two kids and asks them what they retrieved.

“Well, I got some little leather packet thingies. We might be able to make some blankets or something! I am always so cold up there at night.” Mark explains his find to the elders as his companion Johnny munches away on some circle cakes. “Johnny, get that Twinkie out of your mouth this instant!” one of the adults commands. “But Mr. Turner I’m hungr-” “That’s enough from you Johnny. You better stop complaining or we will kick you off this bus!” Mr. Turner hastily replies. “Calm down, we just need to focus on building a surplus of food and finding the others so we can set sail,” the old lady reassures. “Yeah, our farms are looking splendid so far..” Mr. Turner mutters.

The bus arrives in a small village located on a grid of grassy terraces. A couple dozen people are seen playing a crude version of soccer, but stop playing to stare at the boys as they enter the area. “This isn’t the first time this has happened boys, you need to stop wandering down there. You may get caught in one of the afternoon floods or worse, by the bandits.” the clan leader, Ms. Rymee remarks. The boys murmur in unison “yes Miss..”

The two boys make their way to the sleeping quarters. They sneak into their tent, and unload their treasure. Mark deposits his load of stuffed animals while Johnny hides his stash of stale marshmallows and creme cakes. “For once, I think I actually miss school,” Mark says. “I sure don’t miss learning, that stuff was hard and when I didn’t understand anything, the teachers would just ignore me!” Johnny exclaims. “I don’t know, it just happened all fast…I wonder where Heidi is now…” “Mark, just forget about her, I’m pretty sure she is either gone or has sun cooties,” Mark sighs. “I wonder if there are any other kids left, or is it just me and you?” “I have no idea, good night!” “Night Johnny.”

Amongst the mound of eyeless teddy bears, Mark started to skim over in his head what had happened over the week. Monday was wonderful, as Mark received the news that he aced last week’s vocabulary test, another perfect score for him in the sea of his class’s F’s. Tuesday was mediocre, but went downhill when another child blamed Mark for cutting him with safety scissors. His teacher, who seemed to be always engaged to the online dating website constantly on her monitor, punished the child who whined the most, and Mark never whined. Wednesday, however, was by far the most dramatic. As punishment for “cutting poor little Andy,” Mark spent recess in the teacher’s lounge while his teacher chatted to a potential date on the phone. While this was completely normal for Mark, he avoided recess at all costs, the ending of that recess was not at all.

Mark dreamed of the sweet smell of fresh cut grass and of majestic pines, but overall, he dreamed about middle school. For Mark, middle school was the next step in his goal of becoming an astronomer. All of Mark’s friends from 5th grade had become 6th graders this year, and Mark was always lonely in his class of glue-eating brats.  Anyway, Mark was finally attending middle school.  Instead of having one, boring and slightly creepy teacher, he had six inspiring teachers, each specialized in some form of advanced super teaching, a ritual only found in middle school.  He skipped to each class, happier than a lottery-winner. However, his euphoric-wonderland was abruptly interrupted by the loud booming voice of Ms. Rymee, calling for everyone to help work the farms.