1. The phrase that runs throughout the novel is, of course, “so it goes.” Look at several examples of its use. Certainly, it occurs every time death is mentioned, but what does it mean? Does Vonnegut use it only in one way, or does it accrue several meanings as its use develops throughout the novel? Is it a useful phrase for Billy to repeat to himself as his personal mantra?
2. The novel is structured using the idea of time travel. Rather than presenting Billy’s life chronologically, Vonnegut presents Billy’s experiences to us in a non-linear fashion, in the order in which Billy experiences them. How does this unusual structure affect our understanding of the novel? Does it help Vonnegut show us the connections between different parts of Billy’s life? Does it allow Vonnegut to achieve greater depth in portraying the effects of Billy’s experiences? Are there other advantages you can identify?
3. What if Billy Pilgrim was not kidnapped and taken to the planet Tralfamadore? What if he invented this fantasy as an escape from his own life experiences? Is it an example of the belief that “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is”?
If Tralfamadore is a fantasy existing only in Billy’s imagination—you needn’t believe it to be so, just explore the possibility—how would that fact affect our understanding of the novel? Would it be in keeping with Billy’s character? How? Would it relate to his experiences as a prisoner of war? How? Would it help Billy find peace and serenity in his life? In other words, is it something someone like Billy might invent as a comfortable fiction?
As you explore this possibility, consider not only what we know about Billy’s life but also the Tralfamadorian views on time, fate, free will, happiness, and war. Gather a few pieces of evidence from the novel to support your argument, whichever direction you choose to take it.