Nadya
Nadya asked:

What does "So it goes" mean? The narrator seems to say that every time someone dies, so I was wondering what it meant.

To answer questions about Slaughterhouse-Five, please sign up.
Mac I've thought a lot about this and I even have the phrase tattooed on my arm so my opinion doesn't matter any more than anyone else's I guess.

To me, in a nutshell, it means the inexorable universe doesn't care one whit about our lives and it's up to us to make of them what we will. Sometimes that is a pretty poor showing and sometimes it's fantastic, so it goes. Sometimes awful things happen to innocent people, so it goes. Sometimes the most beautiful things happen to awful people, so it goes. Sometimes everything works out just the way we want it to, so it goes.

I really don't know, it's just me and my mind making things up. So it goes.
Denise Fair That was what Tralfamadorians says when they see a corpse. To them, death is just a bad condition at a particular moment in one's existence, but the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Billy Pilgrim now views death the same way, as if it's just one bad moment among many other good moments, so it's not something to dwell on.
Charlotte Picton “So it goes” follows every mention of death in the novel, equalizing all of them, whether they are natural, accidental, or intentional, and whether they occur on a massive scale or on a very personal one. Also, the repetition of the phrase keeps a tally of the cumulative force of death throughout the novel, thus pointing out the tragic inevitability of death.
Nat I think, although many have said that it indicates how commonplace and even "neutral" death can be, repeating "So it goes" every time someone has died actually punctuates it and draws even more attention to it. In my reading of it, this almost seems an empathetic, even religious (like saying "Amen" at the end of a prayer) action that respects the effort of life and death. It also points out the go-ing-ness of life... in the Tralfamadorian cycle it is just one point in a continuing cycle, so it didn't just go and stop, it still goes.
Jordyn "So it goes" means life goes on. As the author states it the book, it is in fact an anti war book and interpret the use of the satirical motif to represent how war has taken something such as death, which is so drastic and made it so meaningless.
Mary Daniels Here's the pertinent passage:
“When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is ‘So it goes.’”
Christia It is like saying, "What will be, so be it" and "whatever happens happens, whether there be a thing as fate or not."
Zsak Long Shit happens............................................................................................
Josie it was explained by the tralfamadorians: humans aren't given a chance to choose our fate and free will, so we may as well just accept life for how it is.
Rapti Gupta To put it as blatantly and simply - he was narrating the story. That's why.

When you're telling someone a story, literally, you punctuate with intonation. Here, I thought "so it goes" was a sort of punctuation. "So it goes" in its simplest form, was just narration-relief. At least that's what I like to call it.

It was to remind the reader that Billy isn't the narrator, it is a third person spinning Billy's story!
james wells I am a unique position to answer this as my grandmother was from french and Irish. She constantly said this when people died, or something bad happens. She would say, "Oh, i burned the bread. So it goes. or, oh, grandmother died, so it goes.
I asked her why she said this, and she said well, when you cannot do anything about it, so it goes.
My dad and I both say it, and to me it means "eff it". Usually we say it when we give up and call someone else to take care of it (like a contractor to fix the plumbing), Or when someone we don't like wins the white house.
I forgot to mention, that in french "So it goes" translates to "se la vive." Google says something else (You live it), but in my mind it means, "Such is life."
Terry Wrong I like how many people here read different nuances, shapes and impact of the same sentence.
Chris Vanjonack
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
DeeRae Billy knows the outcome can't be changed. He learned this from the Tralfamadorians who know even they can't change their own destruction of everything.
Keith Henderson Like Sal Noel, I think Vonnegut is using this to call our attention, to have an inverse effect compared to the ostensible meaning of the phrase. "So it goes" says that death is inevitable, that suffering just happens, man. But this is an anti-war novel, a peacenik piece. "So it goes" marks all the tragedy and sorrow that we should be trying to prevent.
Olekingcole I would say if you replace "it" with "life" the narrator says "So life goes" as in all life ends in death.
PPL This is a book about death (people/city).
1. It's a smart way to point out every time there is death in the book. Even when you get tired of reading it, it stops you and let you remind you that death happened.
2. In war life is not unique, it's a number in a lottery. The relation between reason and effect (death) seems a lot of the times circumstantial. "shit happens" just means that the decision was outside of your zone of control.
3. For me it felt like a recurring joke, just to lighten the mood. The sentence borders an absurdity after a while.
Brooke He says "so it goes" every time he mentions that someone died. I think it means that death is inevitable no matter how important you were or what you did in life.
Elizabeth I read "So it goes" as a sort of sigh of resignation.
Sal Noel In a way, that's life- there's nothing we can do, but I think there's a point that maybe we could do something and this defeatist attitude stinks, and that is what Vonnegut infers.
Rosa Because everyone will have to die eventually
Iris That's life. It is a fatalistic remark
Netti Vonnegut's parents were German. Translated literally into German, "So it goes" is "So geht's" - and that is a very, very, common phrase to comment fatalistically on things one can't change or can't prevent to happen. "That's life".
Dae These overly simple words follow horrific short stories/instances. It highlights the indifference with which we treat death. It also shows the desensitization of the characters and humans in general by implying that random death (even in unnecessary circumstances) is a casual part of life.
Peter This expression is used by the narrator on the first page. The Tralfamadorians say this when someone dies, and therefore so does Billy, but this isn't explained till further into the book, and the narrator isn't Billy, so perhaps it has another meaning.

If I heard someone use this expression in speech, I would interpret it as "or so the story goes", which means this might not be what really happened. Perhaps this is a clue that Billy is just bonkers.
Skyler Kurt Vonnegut’s character, Billy Pilgrim, has been burdened by the war, and is unstuck in time, and because of that he experiences deaths of hundreds, including friends, enemies, and even himself, which may have possibly changed him to be less-affected by death, and to just say “So It Goes,” and really not care and move on.
However, I believe that this headstrong acceptance of death may be the opposite of simply showing how Billy is able to toughen up. Rather, it can be interpreted as a concealment his inner turmoil of never ever being able to accept another’s death. Just because one experiences more deaths in one’s lifetime, does not ultimately mean that one becomes less and less affected by it. Thus, I believe “So It Goes” may not be meant literally, rather it can be seen as a sort of protection mechanism for Billy to secure himself. In that way, He may be accepting, and moving on from the fact that death is inevitable for everyone, and that he can do nothing about it. But, I would say that he is internally still very vulnerable in the aspect of moving on from the pain of death. He may be acting tough by outwardly saying “So It Goes,” but it can still be a way for Billy to manage the pain of reality for himself.

True, the quotes are mentioned every time after one dies. Still, I believe that “So It Goes” not only reveal Billy’s acceptance of death, but basically the acceptance of losing control in everything. Quite literally for Billy, he is unstuck in time, he has been abducted by aliens, and that by itself shows how he has no control of his life what so ever. So, his life is presented as something uncontrollable, something he cannot even hope or dare to change. And in this way, Kurt Vonnegut’s “So It Goes” can be accepted as a philosophical commentary. A belief that one ultimately lacks free will in life, death, events, and everything that happens in one’s life. One must simply accept it and roll with it. One must go on.

Building on from the last one, the lack of control in Billy’s life can be interpreted as a political statement as well. “So It Goes” can be a criticism against humanity by highlighting the brutality of those who do not care about deaths. Some war-enthusiasts may say, Hundreds died already, if one more died, who cares, life happens, it is fate, there is a bigger cause. However, Vonnegut believes that war itself is a loss for any side. And in that way, Billy’s lack of control in his life and the war itself, may be paralleling the lack of power for any basic individual to make the deaths, the violence stop, even though it affects every individual in a negative way. Therefore, Kurt Vonnegut may be sarcastically mocking war enthusiasts by mimicking what they say in their totally inhumane manners: “So It Goes”
DAud_IcI It is said a lot of other times too and some are quite mundane. It's used to cut off a tangent/subplot, sometimes even before getting into it. It's there to simulate the experience of a live storytelling and the idea of a narrator telling a sliver of a much larger story. When people die I get the impression that he would like to epilogize for each of them, but he realises that it's rather irrelevant to the plot so he just says "so it goes" as if to say "that's a story for another time".
Karl Braungart
'So it goes." That's the way it is, based upon the outcome of any sort of matter, or conclusion.
Mike Wargo In the end, death is the only guarantee in life and everything carries on after it
Daphne for me it is what the aliens say, while looking down at the humans....
Denise Fair gives the best answer, I think.
Виолета Цолова Is this anti-war novel?
Siim Koger You can't do anything about what happens. You can ignore it or live by it but you can't change it.
LeoFizz Essentially it is used to relate all the deaths in the book, all treated equally as simple moments that exist in time. Based on the Tralfamadorians view of time with all moments existing at once and the fact that there is no such thing as free will it relates the idea that death is just something that happens. It is a moment that we will all experience but it doesn't mean the end of our existence, It is just the only moment that is certain for every living being.
Greg I think it means "have a shot" or "take a pill" (there has to be a reason Vonnegut references" Valley of the Dolls") or "take a puff" (the author does reference pot) or "pick your poison" (and lots of poisons are indeed mentioned) cause it really doesn't matter, when your time comes, it comes. Best to enjoy every minute we have! Best to not try to force the universe to bend to one's will. So, everyone, let's enjoy in our own way. Me? Way too much coffee, but that's my drug of choice.
Ivo I believe that anytime something, like a death, is mentioned that the protagonist could not have been aware of (or at least not with certainty), "and so it goes" is stated, meaning that this is something only noted by the Tralfalmadorians. Like a footnote from the omniscient narrator.
Maria Rodriguez Hertz Its kind of a ¨life goes on¨
Image for Slaughterhouse-Five
Rate this book
Clear rating

About Goodreads Q&A

Ask and answer questions about books!

You can pose questions to the Goodreads community with Reader Q&A, or ask your favorite author a question with Ask the Author.

See Featured Authors Answering Questions

Learn more