During the novelSlaughterhouse-Five, Billy Pilgrim claims that he is kidnapped by an alien species called the Tralfamadorians. He insists that they take him to their home planet, Tralfamadore, talk to him about their theories on time, and then put him in a zoo with an attractive active, Montana Wildhack. Billy thinks that all of these events are true, and he even lives by the Tralfamadorian theories about time, but in reality, none of these events ever occur.
The first time Billy experiences time travel, which is something the Tralfamadorians believe in, is shortly after he returns from the war. We can assume that Billy suffers from post traumatic stress disorder after his horrible experiences during war. The night Billy first time travels is the night of his daughter’s weeding. “He said he had been kidnapped by the Tralfamadorians on the night of his daughter’s wedding. He hadn’t been missed, he said, because the Tralfamadorians had taken him through a time warp, so that he could be on Tralfamadore for years, and still be away from Earth for only a microsecond” (p. 26). In reality, Billy did miss he daughter’s wedding; he wasn’t gone for only a microsecond. This shows that his Tralfamadorian beliefs are fictitious and only in his head.
Another time that disproves the Tralfamadorians is when Billy is in New York City. He is walking around the city and sees a bookstore with one of Kilgore Trout’s novels in the window. He goes inside and sees a magazine with the cover: “What really became of Montana Wildhack?”. “He [Billy] knew where Montana Wildhack really was, of course. She was back on Tralfamadore, taking care of the baby, but the magazine, which was called Midnight Pussycats, promises that she was wearing a cement overcoat under thirty fathoms of saltwater in San Pedro Bay” (p. 204). This magazine clearly states that Montana is dead, yet Billy still believes that she is alive on Tralfamadore. He had just seen a movie of her playing in the store, so he is obviously thinking back to that. Billy thinks that since he just saw he alive at one time, she is still currently alive. The Tralfamadorian belief does not hold true.
The biggest thing that proves that the Tralfamadorians aren’t real is when Billy finds one of Kilgore Trout’s books in the store that he had never read before. “He got a few paragraphs into it, and then he realized that he had read it before—years ago, in the veterans’ hospital. It was about an Earthling man and woman who were kidnapped by extra-terrestrials. They were put on display in a zoo on a planet called Zircon-212” (p. 201). This Kilgore Trout book is the whole basis for Billy’s belief in the Tralfamadorians. As I stated earlier, the first time Billy experienced time travel was shortly after the war. Billy read this book while he was in the veterans’ hospital right after the war. His post traumatic stress disorder must have made him think that the book was real, and that he was part of the book. He had no sense of reality after the war, and this book must have made him feel like he did have a sense of reality, though he really didn’t.
The effect of war caused Billy to believe he was kidnapped by aliens. War caused him to lose a sense of what was real and what wasn’t real. Through this facet of the book, I think Vonnegut is trying to show that war is not only horrible physically through death, but that it also can destroy you emotionally and mentally. Billy was scarred from the war and never recovered. His mind was altered and he began to believe in imaginary things as a way to cope. War is a horrible thing that can effect people long after it is over.
This academia was first published 24 May 2006 and last revised 13 Feb 2016.Adam Cap is a sometimes raconteur, rare dingus collector, and webmaster probably best known for SixPrizes (serving as “El Capitan”) and PkmnCards (read: fine art purveyor). He scrapbooks yonder every minute or three.
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In many novels, the idea of time is handled in different ways to keep the story at a smooth pace. Kurt Vonnegut, the author of Slaughterhouse-Five, uses time as a way to give the reader an idea of what his main character’s life was like and what he had gone through throughout his life. Vonnegut’s manipulation of time may make the story confusing to some at times, but he effectively explains his character’s background through this different use of time.
Throughout the plot of Slaughterhouse-Five, the idea of time is thrown around in several ways. In the beginning of the story, Vonnegut introduces his readers to Billy Pilgrim, the main character of the story who has the ability to travel to different moments of his life without knowing which moment he would be going to. Throughout the novel, Billy’s time travels illustrate the many different things that he had to deal with in his lifetime and all of the things that he went through with the war and his family.
During his life, Billy has to go through torture and torment from being a scrawny little boy when he was little, surviving a plane crash and not being able to be with his wife when she passes away, being a prisoner of war for several years in World War II in Germany, and talking about his being abducted by aliens on a radio talk show. By switching years and moving to different parts of his life like that, Vonnegut effectively explains Billy’s past and how his past has affected him so much. For example, Vonnegut goes back to when Billy was involved in the plane crash in Vermont, when he fractured his skull and was unconscious for several days.
It goes into detail about how Billy’s wife hurried to the hospital as fast as she could, but died of carbon monoxide poisoning on her way to the hospital. As much as time is talked about throughout the novel, this part of Billy’s life shows how Vonnegut tried to explain that time is precious and that everyone should appreciate it as best as they can. Vonnegut also changes the way that time works in his novel through the “aliens” that Billy sees. The reader hears a lot about a group of aliens that Billy Pilgrim meets, who during his time travels take him back to their home planet known as Tralfamadore.
Billy’s travels with the aliens come randomly during his time-traveling spells bring about different insights and lessons that readers can get and put into their everyday lives. For example, on the night Billy is kidnapped by the Tramalfadorians, he asks a simple question that anyone in his position would ask: “Why me? ” The Tramalfadorians respond to him in a way that seems bizarre for humans to think about, saying that there is no why and that the moment just is and that all of them are trapped in that moment.
The aliens basically tell Billy and the readers that time does not matter in life, and that the most important thing to worry about when dealing with time is the moment that is happening right now, not the past or the future. Kurt Vonnegut also introduces the idea of time in his own narration of the story. Along with the previous idea, when the reader is introduced to Billy Pilgrim, Vonnegut makes a statement about Billy: “Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were the past, the present, and the future. This statement makes the point that time does not matter and that the only thing that he can do is live in the moment and deal with what is happening right now instead of what has already happened or what will happen later. Although Billy can travel back in time to the places that he used to be and the things that he used to see, he realizes that they are just memories, and that there is nothing he can do to change them because they are in the past. Likewise, he also knows that he cannot change the future because he does not know what could happen to him since it has not happened yet.
This is the point that Vonnegut was trying to get across in Slaughterhouse-Five that people in the world just need to live in the moment and not get so wrapped up in the past or worry so much about the future. There was another part of the story that Vonnegut writes that shows how time is an important part of the novel. In the beginning, when the reader is first introduced to Billy Pilgrim in the second chapter, the first line of the chapter is, “Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time. This statement starts off the story right off the bat with the idea that time is something that cannot be changed or tampered with. The statement seems to hold up as true throughout the entire story, since the reader sees that Billy can in fact travel back in time, but he cannot change anything that he had done and can only watch everything that had happened. The idea of not being able to change time is something that Billy has to face during all of his time-travels and looking back at all of the memories that he went back to revisit.
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Slaughterhouse-Five is a novel filled with insights about a person’s time during their life and how it should be spent. Kurt Vonnegut gives the reader many different examples of how time is a precious thing that cannot be changed through his own manipulation of the idea of time with Billy Pilgrim and his time-travel experiences and memories. Through Billy’s experiences, the readers learn exactly what Vonnegut writes about Billy: that “the things [we] could not change were the past, the present, and the future. ”
Author: Brandon Johnson
The Theme of Time in Slaughterhouse Five
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