Hypertextual Relations In The Works Of K. Vonnegut Jr. Of 1952-1969 Period


The article represents an attempt of systematization and linguosynergetic analysis of hypertextual relations, implemented in the text space of the first six novels of the famous American postmodernist Kurt Vonnegut, published in the period of 1952-1969. The object of the study is multilevel intertextual relations of the novels that provide the possibility of nonlinear reading and turn post-modernist text in the meaning structure with increasing entropy. Nonlinear apprehension of information in the form of multiple self-similar intertextual inclusions requires the explication of implicit relations, the complete decryption of which demands scrupulous analysis. Vonnegut's novels are a vivid example of realization of hypertextual relations, since they develop the same ideas and can be considered as more or less new parts of a whole. In the framework of the study, the spectrum of principal themes in the space of the studied hypertext is being determined. The proposal is put forward that multiple reproduction of meaning lines in the hypertext under study is characterized by a continuous complication and branching of meaning relations involved in the organization of the frame structure. It is being stated that meaning development, carried out through meaning increments, is organized within the framework of the frame structure of the rhizome, when the previously presented meaning blocks are complicated by new information turns, each of which opens a new understanding of the precedent meaning.

Keywords: Frame structurehypertextintertextual relationsKurt Vonnegutmeaning formation


The problem of hypertext and hypertextual relations draws the attention of researchers in various fields of knowledge. Linguosynergetic approach, applied in this study with relation to a literary text, allows us to interpret hypertextuality as the relationship between texts of one author, united by a common aesthetic and philosophical content and features of linguistic construction. The concept of hypertextuality becomes particularly relevant in the case of the analysis of a postmodern work, since postmodern text opens up prospects for nonlinear reading. To characterize such a construction, Barthes (2001) introduces the concept of "writerly text" and notes that "in such an ideal text, the connections are numerous and interactive, and none of the links can drown out the rest; such an ideal text is permeated by a network of countless intertwining internal moves that do not have power over each other" (p. 33). Epstein (n.d.) emphasizes the multisequential nature of hypertext, which is “documentation that branches and interacts, allowing the reader to explore the information contained in it in any sequence” (p. 7). Due to the possibility to consider a postmodern text as an open system, being in dialogical relations with other works, the nonlinear text violates the one-dimensional character of the latter. The multitude of texts created by the writer forms a multidimensional text space where texts intersect and debouch one into another. At the same time, as Shekhtman (2000) points out, "a non-linearly organized block of polythematic information which integrates nonintersecting information resources requires the establishment of cross-references" (p. 6). This refers to intertextual relations in artistic endeavour of a particular writer, allowing a multi-level reading approach and turning a post-modernist text into non-linear meaning structure with increasing meaning entropy.

In other words, "the writer goes from a network of ideas to a linear text, and the reader performs the reverse transformation of the linear text into a network of ideas" (Epstein, n.d., p. 8). Establishing hypertextual relations, from the author's point of view, is a way of organizing and building a new type of text – hypertext. The concept of hypertext as a method of storing heterogeneous information was first described in 1945 by Vannevar Bush - the science adviser to President Roosevelt in the article "As We May Think". The term "hypertext" was introduced by the programmer, mathematician and philosopher Nelson (1992), who described hypertext as the text consisting of separate textual fragments – nodes, between which the logical and meaning links were indicated. Although applied mostly in other fields, "with the development of science hypertext became perceived not just as a mechanism or a way of nonlinear storage of information, but also as a way of organizing the text itself as an object of linguistic research" (Popov, 2015, p. 171).

Problem Statement

From the position of the recipient, hypertextuality is interpreted as a new way of understanding a literary text, actualizing the cognitive mechanisms of perception and interpretation. "The concept of hypertext representation of information is associated with streamlining and facilitating search procedures. This directly concerns the information encoded by the texts of fiction. The relationship between the concepts of "intertextuality" and "hypertext" in the framework of corpus linguistics can be illustrated from the standpoint of conceptual metaphor" (Koval, Kurash, & Amatov, 2019, p. 3). Nonlinear representation of information in the form of a set of self-similar intertextual inclusions requires explication of implicit connections, for the full decoding of which the recipient should demonstrate extensive background knowledge and be versed in the works of the writer. "Reading the text in a course of its deployment, moving linearly from beginning to end, the reader should be able to constantly move from it to other texts, really trace the numerous intertextual links" (Masalova, 2003, p. 58). The progression from one work to another within the framework of the whole corpus of texts allows the reader to penetrate deeper into the idea of each particular work, as well as to recognize the peculiar picture of the world that the writer seeks to convey through his artistic endeavour. Other considerations of multiple set of literary text as presenting a hypertext used (Bogatikova, 2009; Olizko & Sergodeev, 2018). In fact, the works of different authors may due to some relations (for example, on the basis of parody) be considered as a hypertext (Kibalnik, 2015). Some scholars analyse a single literary text as a hypertext (Oblasova, 2018).

In other words, hypertextuality is the result of linearity of the procedures of writing and reading and nonlinearity of the processes of generation and perception of the text, which is characterized by the linearity of arrangement of words and sentences within its constituent fragments and by the nonlinearity of arrangement of fragments relative to each other.

Research Questions

The hypertext of American postmodernist Kurt Vonnegut includes 14 novels and plenty of stories. Since the author's hypertext is extremely extensive, in this article we shall consider only the main features of hypertextual relations of his first six novels written in the period of 1952-1969, they are: "Player Piano" (Vonnegut, 2006a), "The Sirens of Titan" (Vonnegut, 2006b), "Mother Night" (Vonnegut, 2006c), "Cat’s Cradle" (Vonnegut, 2007), "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, or Pearls Before Swine" (Vonnegut, 1998), "Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death" (Vonnegut, 1972).

Purpose of the Study

Within the scope of the study six novels by Kurt Vonnegut are being considered as a hypertext, since these novels develop the same ideas and can be considered as more or less new parts of a whole. In his works the writer inevitably raises the topics (meanings, ideas) which he considers the most vital, appeals again and again to some beloved characters and scenes, the development of which reflects a gradual change of the author's worldview, at the same time practicing favorite artistic techniques and referring to selected authors and works. Meaning represents the basic unit at the level of content, it inevitably develops and become more complex while being transhipped from one text to another, due to new blocks of information added and the fact that it interacts with new meanings, and at the intersection with them acquires new connotations. "The idea (meaning, concept) [...] is placed by the author in a hypertext node and correlates without her meaning-nodes" (Masalova, 2003, p. 56). The organization of hypertextual relations within the framework of artistic endeavour of a particular writer is carried out on the principle of fractal similarity, which allows establishing index connections of several works.

Research Methods

The study is performed by using such scientific methods as: linguosynergetic method, the method of fractal modelling and linguostylistic interpretation. Methods of descriptive and comparative analysis, as well as the method of modelling and formalization of meaning are used as additional.


Within the framework of his first six novels, the author managed to embody and develop the main meanings that he carried through his later works. The first novel of Kurt Vonnegut was "Player Piano", in which the author laid the basis for his further literary work. In this novel, the main themes were outlined, which subsequently found a deep response and received implementation and development in the later works of the author, among them are the themes of replacing people with machines, the inhumanity of war, the theme of people of no use, the problem of suicide, loneliness, the idea of artificial extended families, the negative aspects of progress, the attitude to God and religion (this meaning line resulted to be the most complicated throughout the hypertext of the author, we have given the results of its analysis in the one of the previous materials (Zhurkova & Khomutnikova, 2019). The narration takes place from an imaginary future when machines have completely replaced the physical labour of people, and mental labour is about to be done by machines: "Machines were doing America's work far better than Americans had ever done it" (Vonnegut, 2006a, p. 51). The idea of deviating from progressive trends is implicated not only in the storyline of the protagonist, but also in the storylines of some minor characters (Edward Finnerty, James J. Lasher, Rudy Hertz, E. R. B. Hagstrohm, Dr. Frederick Garth, etc.). Realization of a meaning line through multiple characters allows the writer to complicate it in the process of the text deployment, to allow the meaning increment engaging information blocks from different possible world-spheres (the worlds of text subjects), which creates a kind of meaning identity, the assonance of various interpretations of one meaning line. This literary technique is often used by the author in his later works.

If "Player Piano" can be classified as belonging to the genre of dystopia, the novel "Sirens of Titan" is closer to the genre of science fiction, but this novel, as well as the previous one contains imperious philosophical problems. Among the main meaning lines, first of all, shall be distinguished those that have already been actualized in the previous novel: the attitude to God and religion, the negative aspects of progress, the inhumanity of war, the theme of suicide, loneliness, the idea of artificial extended families. The new meanings distinguished are: contemplation of the meaning of life, man as an instrument of fate, the problem of using religion for profit, the problems of veterans of war, children in the war theme, meaningless of human civilization, the existence of alien civilizations, the problem of friendship, the problem of father-son relations.

The novel "Mother Night" actualizes mostly those meaning lines relating to the war, however, in a more thorough study, they appear to be only near-nuclear. "Mother Night" belongs to the genre of psychological novel, because its main purpose is to reveal the inner world of the main character Howard W. Campbell Jr. who appears before the reader as both the protagonist and the antagonist in the course of the plot development. The insight to the inner world of the character actualizes the problem of antagonism of good and evil not only in the outside world, but also in human consciousness, which became the nuclear meaning of the novel. Meaning lines prevailing in the text, but occupying the near-nuclear positions, are: the theme of the inhumanity of war, the theme of mass murder (in particular the destruction of Dresden and the Holocaust), the creation of weapons of mass destruction, children in the war. Meanings related to war theme were not actualized in full measure in this novel, because due to the specific character of genre, they act more as a background against which the evolution of the protagonist's consciousness takes place. Among the peripheral meanings can be identified such meanings as: the problem of mental disorder, the attitude to God and religion, the problem of creativity, the problem of war veterans, the problem of suicide, the problem of loneliness. Among them we distinguished some new meaning lines, they are: the idea of people being programmed to a certain behaviour, the idea that the relations of husband and the wife can be presented as "Nation of Two," this theme will be developed in the following novel, it is possible to say that "Nation of Two," is embodied in "Cat's Cradle" idea of duprass – a perfect karass of only two.

If "Mother Night" primarily actualized the nuclear theme of war and related near-nuclear topics, in "Cat's Cradle" we find meanings associated with the negative aspects of progress, science and weapons of mass destruction prevailing. In the novel the author develops and pays special attention to the theme of attitude to God and religion. The meaning periphery identifies such meaning lines as the problem of creativity, the problem of father-son relations, the theme of mass murder, the problem of suicide, children in the war theme, the idea of artificial extended families. These meaning lines were traced in previous novels, among the new meanings we can distinguish such as love for one's neighbour, the inhumanity of scientists. The development of precedent meanings is organized according to the fractal model "rhizome", that can be defined as a branching multi-level structure in a state of dynamic change. As being opposed to any other kind of root organization, a rhizome is interpreted not as a linear "rod" or "root" but as a "tuber" or "bulb" – an implication of potential infinity containing a "hidden stem" (Nikitina, 2006, 185). The principal difference is that such a stem-tuber can develop anywhere and take any configuration, since the rhizome is absolutely nonlinear. The development of nuclear meanings according to the model of rhizomorphic fractal allows the author to go beyond one text, bringing the meaning construction to the level of hypertextual relations.

In the novel "Cat's Cradle" the meaning line representing relation of man to God and religion was re-introduced as an elaborated religious creed - Bokononism. It is possible to assert that the basis for it was developed in the meaning lines of the previous novels, as Bokononism combines a religious movement represented in the novel "The Sirens of Titan" ("Someday, someday" Calypso) , and the idea of artificial extended families, implemented in the bokononist concept of karass, and the problem of mechanization of life (Fifty-third Calypso), the antagonism of good and evil ("«Papa»" Monzano" Calypso), the problem of using religion for profit ("Oh, a very sorry people" Calypso), the theme of love for one's neighbor ("We will touch our feet" Calypso), the problem of loneliness, etc. Introducing Bokonism in the novel, the author scrutinizes the precedential meaning lines through the prism of one of them (in this case through the prism of attitude to God and religion). In the aspect of content we register an emergence of a hypertextual knot consisting of numerous intertwining meaning lines connected into a single unity by the idea of Bokonism. The hypertextual node can be identified as a "qualitatively new integrative formation" arising as a result of "energy transposition and projection of one set of elements into another set of elements of the system" (Myshkina, 1998, p. 129), as a result of which the system releases a splash of energy, actualizing the reader's attention and directing it in the process of meaning explication. Considered from the point of view of the text form, Bokonism is a manifestation of how one meaning line becomes an instrument of the writer, acquires the status of a narrative technique – becomes a framing structure represented by the text-in-text construction. Vonnegut's Bokonism becomes a frame in which the author places some of the previously actualized meaning lines. Being placed in such framing structure, the considered meaning lines acquire boundedness and act as self-similar structures, i.e. they become structurally similar copies of the integrity from which they emerge. In fact, they represent a part of a fractal – a repetitive model that splits into fragments, each of which is a reduced copy of the whole form. Self-similarity here does not mean identity, so the meaning lines represented by Bokonism, to a large extent carry the emerging features of the arteauthor ("the face of the real author, showing through the masks of the text author chosen by him" (Myshkina, 1998, p. 135)), but in some parts may differ from those meaning lines that are implemented in the space of hypertext. Having regard to the above said, we may conclude that the author strives for constant complication of both the content expressed in the meaning lines and the form of his works.

The next novel is "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, or Pearls Before Swine". One of the main meaning lines presented in this novel is the line of people of no use, it is a keynote of the narrative, accompanied by such meanings as replacing people with machines, love for one's neighbour, contemplation of the meaning of life. It should be pointed out that in this novel we can again observe the transposition of meaning lines and their intertwining in the hypertextual nodes, due to the experiment conducted by the protagonist, which aims at showing love for people of no use: "The problem is this: How to love people who have no use?" (Vonnegut, 1998, p. 186). This experiment constitutes the main storyline as well as the nuclear meaning line (people of no use), which is intertwined in the course of narration with the other (secondary) meaning lines, they are the theme of suicide, the problem of father-son relations, the idea of artificial extended families, the problem of mental disorder, the attitude to God and religion. Among near-nuclear meaning lines we shall mark out the problem of creativity, the theme of mass murder (the destruction of Dresden), the existence of alien civilizations, the inhumanity of war. Thus, this novel by and large does not introduce new meaning lines into the hypertext of the author, however, brings to perfection a few favorite meaning lines introduced earlier. Meaning development, carried out through meaning increments, is organized within the frame structure of the rhizome, when the previously presented meaning blocks are complicated by new turns of information, each of which opens a new understanding of the precedent meaning. For example, the meaning line of people of no use is complicated by an additional meaning block of class confrontation, through which the reason for the appearance so-called people of no use in American society is revealed. According to the author, the reason for this is unwillingness of wealthy people to help people in need, the unwillingness to show care and participation in the fate of others (intersection with the line of love for one's neighbor). On the contrary, wealthy people try to show their superiority and worthlessness of the poor, forcing them to lose respect for themselves. Moreover, the rich believe that the poor are so worthless that they have to thank their rich brothers for their existence almost every minute. The whole essence of this provision is reflected in metatextual inclusion - the vow written by wealthy Castor Buntline for children living in the shelter sponsored by him: " I do solemnly swear that I will respect the sacred private property of others […] I will be grateful to those who employ me, and will never complain about wages and hours […] I understand that I have not been placed on Earth to be happy […] I must be always […] respectful to those to whom God has, in His Wisdom, placed above me" (Vonnegut, 1998, p. 137). A new block of information opens a new interpretation of the meaning line, while by correlation with other lines it acquires new connotations.

A distinctive feature of the novel "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, or Pearls Before Swine" is that it introduces the most significant character of Vonnegut, especially in the aspect of consideration of his texts as a hypertext, it is, of course, Kilgore Trout, a science-fiction writer. The character of Kilgore Trout is fictional, however, its prototype, to some extent, is the real American science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon, however, according to the Vonnegut’s words, Kilgore Trout is his own alter ego (Lundquist, 1997). Trout is a minor through-character in 7 of 14 Vonnegut's novels, in each of the seven novels in which he is present the author mentions his stories and provides a summary of them. Regarding the formal organization a summary of each of Trout’s novels implicated into narration can be considered as a metatextual inclusion, from the standpoint of meaning formation Trout’s science fiction novels play the role of meaning iteration, as they educe in a vividly exaggerated form the meanings that were implemented earlier in the receiving novel. In "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, or Pearls Before Swine" we find three brief descriptions of Kilgore Trout's novels. The first one of them- "2BRO2B" actualizes the meaning lines of people of no use and suicide. The novel begins with America of the future where all work was mechanized and only people with three or more Ph. D.’s could get a job, in fact, the beginning is an allegory for the first novel by Vonnegut - "Player Piano". The novel continues, depicting the problem of mankind suffering from overpopulation, as a solution for this problem a voluntarily suicide was allowed. People who found no use for themselves in the world ended their lives painlessly in specially equipped salons. The second part of Trout's novel actualizes hypertextual node implemented in the storyline of Eliot Rosewater, in which the meaning of lines of people of no use and suicide intertwine (Eliot organized telephone help line for people in difficult situations, in particular, for those intending to commit suicide). As follows from the above, Trout's novel carries the function of meaning iteration, with the difference that in the text of the receiving novel this meaning node must be explicated, since its elements are unevenly distributed in the plane of the text, while in Trout's novel it is presented in an open, concise and accessible form and meanings are vivid and it appear on the surface, not requiring any additional interpretation efforts from the reader. Such simplified meaning iteration technique will be further applied by Vonnegut in all the novels with the minor character of Kilgore Trout. The relations between the receiving texts and Trout's novels are based on meaning isomorphism and can be described as metaphorical. A distinctive feature of Trout's novels is the reduction of their meaning structure to one (rarely-two) meaning elements, expressed explicitly. In the presented case of the story inside the story their self-similar organization is carried out in accordance with the fractal model "spiral". Each of Trout's novels, being a symmetrical reflection of the meaning line presented in the receiving novel, spins one circuit of the "spiral of interpretation" on it (Olizko, 2016, p. 64).

In the novel "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, or Pearls Before Swine", contains two more novels by Kilgore Trout, the novel "Venus on the Half-shell" actualizes the meaning line contemplation of the meaning of life, and the novel of "Pan-Galactic Three-Day Pass" the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and the idea of artificial extended families.

"God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, or Pearls Before Swine" also actualizes such three meaning lines as the problem of suicide, the problem of mental disorder and the problem of father-son relations. The protagonist is in a difficult relationship with his father, which, according to the psychiatrist, is one of the main causes of his mental disorder. After a quarrel with his father, the main character is experiencing a nervous breakdown and falls out of life for a year, he leads a radically different lifestyle and remembers nothing about the events of this year: "Everything went black for Eliot, as black as what lay beyond the ultimate rim of the universe" (Vonnegut, 1998, p. 180), "He made a calm calculation. Somehow, somewhere, he had lost one year" (Vonnegut, 1998, p. 185). During this period, he also makes several suicide attempts. Three meaning lines intertwine in the protagonist story line, transposing into each other and acquiring new connotations in a hypertextual node.

The theme of suicide, hinted by previous works, is most vividly reflected in this novel. Entering the hypertext node with the problem of father-son relations, it brings to the surface of hypertext a new information circuit, continuing the development of the meaning line. The node manifests itself not only the storyline of the protagonist, but also in the storyline of the secondary character- Fred Rosewater, the idea of self-killing found lodgment in his mind. He cannot get past the idea, that "sons of suicides often think of killing themselves" (Vonnegut, 1998, p. 106). The theme of suicide is manifested in the storyline of the protagonist: "Eliot looked up into the tree, and the memory of all that had happened in the blackness came crashing back - the fight with the bus driver, the straitjacket, the shock treatments, the suicide attempts, all the tennis, all the strategy meetings about the sanity hearing" (Vonnegut, 1998, p. 192). This topic is very urgent and has an autobiographical character, because Vonnegut himself was the son of a suicide – his mother killed herself in 1944, when he was in the war. Obviously, this thought pursued the author and found such energetically strong reflection that attracted the other two meaning lines of the novel, forming an energetic hypertextual node.

If the novel "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, or Pearls Before Swine" is in terms of the meaning construction, exhaustively implementing the meaning line of people of no use, the meaning core of the next Vonnegut’s novel "Slaughterhouse-Five, or The children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death" is devoted to actualization of the theme of war, as in the novel "Mother Night", but here it becomes dominant, representing the meaning core of the work. The spectrum of meanings reflecting military themes in this novel is quite wide, and includes almost all the meanings of concern to the author, they are primarily the inhumanity of war, children in the war, the theme of mass murder, embodied in the central plot arch of the bombing of Dresden, the creation of weapons of mass destruction, the problem of patriotism, love of neighbor, strong disapproval of weapons. Among the minor meaning lines can be identified the existence of alien civilizations, time as the fourth dimension, the problem of friendship, the problem of loneliness, the attitude to God and religion, the problem of creativity, the problem of people of no use, the use of religion for profit. In addition to that, there are new meaning lines arising in the novel:, the problem of accepting Genesis account, the idea that all people are machines (the last one can be taken as a new one only to some extent, since it can be traced to the idea of people being programmed to a certain behavior).

Despite the fact of exhaustion of the meaning line of people of no use in the previous novel, its echoes still find a place in "Slaughterhouse-Five", but this time it is not implemented through the story lines of the characters, but through the text-in-text construction – a text of report by Howard W. Campbell, Jr., the protagonist of the novel "Mother Night", who appears as a minor character in the plot of "Slaughterhouse-Five". Notionally, the content of the report largely represents a meaning iteration of the information that the reader receives from the novel "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater", however, this time this information is presented on a larger scale, within the whole nation: "It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters" (Vonnegut, 1972, p. 60). In this case, the meaning development can be illustrated by fractal model of concentric circles, characterized by the presence of nested entities set. The perception of the meaning block in the form of a circle helps to recognize repetitive structures and identify new ones, due to which the outer circle is expanded in relation to the inner one embedded in it. This information block is functionally intertwined with the narrative line of Billy Pilgrim as a representative of the American nation. This example (as well as the transfer of characters of one novel to the later ones) clearly shows the attachment of the author to certain ideas (meanings) and his inability to discard them even despite their exhaustive implementation. This, however, is laying the foundation for hypertextual relations between his works. The development of precedent meaning lines is organized within the bounds of the frame structure of rhizome, when each rame, ideated as a rod, gradually becomes more complicated, branching into several rames, each of which, giving new rames, each time represents a new understanding of the precedent meaning. Meanings, sprouting into the text, acquire connotations implemented via introduced by the author new circuits of information, grow into a developed stem – rhizome.

Within the context of this novel we should also highlight the meaning confrontation in which the author involves the reader by introducing in his text some metatextual inclusions - excerpts from speeches, books, records of other people, etc. The reader of the novel is given the opportunity to become acquainted with excerpts from the speech of President Truman, dedicated to the bombing of Hiroshima. In his speech, the President admires the military force acquired by the U.S. army, by receiving such destructive weapons: "With this bomb we have now added a new and revolutionary increase in destruction to supplement the growing power of our armed forces" (Vonnegut, 1972, p. 84). The President speaks with delight about the power that his country has received and the possibility to destroy other countries at will: "We shall destroy their docks, their factories and their communications. Let there be no mistake; we shall completely destroy Japan’s power to make war" (Vonnegut, 1972, p. 85). Such metatextual inclusions by the nature of the transmitted information are the opposite of the philosophy of the author, a well-known humanist, who stands with all his soul for ordinary people, for the possibility of peaceful life and coexistence of people on the planet. The author does not give his assessment of such textual inclusions, but the decisive factor is the character who introduces them in the text. The President's speech, as well as the subsequent text inclusion, taken from the book "The Destruction of Dresden" by David Irving (the book is devoted to the bombing of Dresden, the author which states that it was a necessity in achieving the highest goal – the extermination of fascism, and that pitying the dead civilians is an empty matter) was introduced into the text of the novel through the character Professor Bertram Copeland Rumfoord. The last name of the character is of great importance here, due to it he is inevitably associated with the character of the novel "The Sirens of Titan" - Winston Niles Rumfoord. In this case, the transfer of negative perception from the precedent to a newly introduced character is registered.

Completely opposite ideas are introduced by the author into the text of the novel through the character of his military friend, Bernard B. O'Hare, which are expressed in a metatextual inclusion- an excerpt from the book "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" by Charles Mackay devoted to Children’s Crusade in 1213. Through an excerpt from this book, the author explains the title of his novel, comparing the war with Germany with the crusade of children, because the soldiers who were sent to the front were very young, almost boys, just like children who went to the crusade. Author’s vicissitudes in time of war were revealed in the storyline of Billy Pilgrim. Developing the meaning line of children in the war, the author repeatedly emphasizes that many soldiers, whom Billy met in the war period were about his age. The meaning line of children in the war will be strongly associated with the name of Bernard B. O'Hare and his wife, who prompted the author to compare the fate of young people in the war with the fate of children sent to the crusade in 1213.

Introduction of meaning lines of opposite character within the text of the novel leads to meaning disequilibrium. Meaning lines, correlating with author’s idea of meaning objective determination can be distinguished as elements, symmetrizing meaning system, while the meaning lines that get into disagreement with the target deployment of the meaning construct bring the elements of asymmetry into the system. As B. M. Gasparov correctly notes "the meaning of any text ... develops in interaction and fight of various, even opposite meaning-forming forces" (as cited in Voloshinov, 2000, p. 343). The implementation of this kind of stable equilibrium becomes possible only in the last of the novels we consider in this article, as the basis for this we can highlight the author's clearly expressed position regarding the nuclear meaning lines of the novel (the first and the final, the tenth Chapter of the novel).

Meaning antagonism is a part of the phenomenon defined by N. L. Myshkina as planetarization, according to which "the energy centers in the text space are the figures of the arte-author, the mente-author, the addressee and the inductors, where the inductors are "text subjects-the exponents of non-author's ideas" (Myshkina, 1998, p. 135) (inductors in the novel are Howard W. Campbell, Jr., Professor Bertram Copeland Rumfoord, Roland Weary, Paul Lazzaro). Meaning lines, mediated through the figure of the arteauthor, the menteauthor and text subjects connected with them by relations of symmetry are in energy confrontation with the meaning lines of inductors. In Vonnegut's hypertext not only characters of the novel can act as inductors, but also real people appearing in the narrative through metatextual inclusions. Thus, by the metatextual inclusion - a passage from the preface to the book "The Destruction of Dresden" the inductor - the author of this preface Ira C. Eaker who is a real person is introduced into the narration.

Nuclear meaning lines are introduced by means of metatextual inclusions – descriptions of the novels of already mentioned science fiction writer Kilgore Trout. In "Slaughterhouse-Five" the character of Trout gets even more development, his storyline intersects with the storyline of the protagonist and both characters develop through it. Vonnegut implicates seven more Trout’s novels into the text, the meanings actualized by them still coincide with the meanings presented in the receiving novel. For example Trout’s novel "Maniacs in the Fourth Dimension" refers to the problem of mental disorder. The author describes untypical disease the cause of which is in the fourth dimension, so that doctors cannot determine it. This story is directly related to the psychological problems of Billy Pilgrim and Eliot Rosewater, who found themselves in neighboring beds in a clinic for the mentally ill. Another Trout’s novel "The Gospel from Outer Space"actualizes the meaning line attitude to God and religion. The novel "The Gutless Wonder"once again presents to the reader the meaning line of inhumanity of war and weapons of mass destruction. "The Big Board" is a projection of the history of the alien abduction of Billy Pilgrim by creatures from Tralfamadore, while in terms of the plot it sheds light on the nature of his insanity. In terms of meaning formation, the novel again actualizes the meaning lines of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations and the use of religion for profit. Thus, the novel "Slaughterhouse-Five" is the second novel in which the author uses his favorite character - Kilgore Trout for the introduction of a framework structure text-in-text, providing implementation of the principle of meaning parallelism in the text of the novel organized according to the fractal model of the spiral.

The novel structure includes three menteauthors - Billy Pilgrim, Kilgore Trout and introduced into the narrative protagonist of the previous novel, Eliot Rosewater, which causes meaning overload of the novel. This occurs due to the fact that the precedent menteauthors being transferred to the text of the new novel, carry with them the meaning lines that were implemented through them earlier. Involving in the narrative previously indicated menteauthor turns the latter in the symbol of a precedent text, it can be described as a bundle of information, and its appearance complicates the meaning system and brings disequilibrium to it. At the same time, the reappearance of menteauthor strengthens hypertextual relations between the individual texts through the principle of symmetry implemented in the space of hypertext. Artistic images from previous texts, being included in the receiving text, do not only cause appropriate associations, but also establish a self-similar relations of the produced text with the previous one. Entering the new narrative, precedent text subjects carry with them a meaning load, transferring into the new narrative the main meaning lines realized through them by the author. The meaning of the intertext now is not the final fragment, but a self-similar infinite number of nested into each other meaning lines, organized according to the principle of the fractal model of the spiral.


Throughout his work, Kurt Vonnegut turns to his favorite, most exciting meanings, among which it is possible to distinguish fundamental nuclear meanings, consistently developing in the space of the hypertext. The creation of a new literary text invariably entails the author's appeal to his own texts, which is the essence of the specificity of hypertextual relations, to which the literature of postmodernism most often refers. Thus, the hypertext of Kurt Vonnegut's novels is organized, first of all, by means of expression and subsequent actualization of a certain network of meanings that are most urgent for the author and call for the attention of the readership. Multiple reproduction of meaning lines in the framework of Vonnegut’s artistic endeavour is accompanied by a constant complication and branching of meaning relations involved in the organization of the frame structure. The principle of non-linear reading allows generation of different interpretations of the same text within the hypertext which is organized on the principle of fractal models of rhizome, spiral and concentric circles. Due to the appearance of the meaning lines that belong to the world-spheres of the text subjects – inductors, we register the emergence of meaning instability. Intertwining of meaning lines into hypertextual nodes results in the transposition of meaning lines into each other, as a result of which the system releases a splash of energy guiding the recipient in the process of meaning explication. Meaning structure of the texts allows the allocation of nuclear, near-nuclear and peripheral meaning lines, with the symmetrization of peripheral meaning lines with respect to nuclear ones. We also registered the multiplicity of masks of the author (menteauthors), among which we distinguish characters transferred from one novel to another, which ensures the implementation of the principle of meaning parallelism on the space of hypertext.


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20 April 2020

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Discourse analysis, translation, linguistics, interpretation, cognition, cognitive psychology

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Olizko, N. S., & Zhurkova, M. S. (2020). Hypertextual Relations In The Works Of K. Vonnegut Jr. Of 1952-1969 Period. In A. Pavlova (Ed.), Philological Readings, vol 83. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 523-534). European Publisher. https://doi.org/10.15405/epsbs.2020.04.02.60