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Slaughterhouse Five Time Essay

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Death and Time in Slaughterhouse-Five

We all wish we could travel through time, going back to correct our stupid mistakes or zooming ahead to see the future. In Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse-Five, however, time travel does not seem so helpful. Billy Pilgrim, Vonnegut's main character, has come unstuck in time. He bounces back and forth between his past, present, and future lives in a roller coaster time trip that proves both senseless and numbing. Examining Billy's time traveling, his life on Tralfamadore, and the novel's schizophrenic structure shows that time travel is actually a metaphor for our human tendency to avoid facing the unpleasant reality of death.

Because he cannot control time…show more content…

There are plenty of other moments of time, they reason, when that person is alive. Therefore, death can be overlooked as a chronological inconvenience.

This philosophy of life and death they instill in Billy himself, speaking to him in a disembodied voice which floats down into the zoo cage which serves as his home:

"We spend eternity looking at pleasant moments--like today at the zoo. Isn't this a nice moment? "Yes." [Billy answered] "That's the one thing Earthlings might learn to do, if they tried hard enough: Ignore the awful times, and concentrate on the good ones." (117)

But ignoring death and its suffering is exactly what Billy should not be doing, Vonnegut suggests. To do so makes him, like the Tralfamadorians, alien and inhuman. He has no sense of his own mortality, an awareness he needs in order to understand that, as Stephen Marten has observed, "life is valuable not because it is infinite but because it is so scarce" (11).

Curiously, Vonnegut uses the Tralfamadorian idea that books, like life, should have "no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects" (88). As he states on the title page of , his novel is written "somewhat in the telegraphic, schizophrenic manner of the tales of the planet Tralfamadore" (i). True to his promise, the book has no orderly plot but

Free Slaughterhouse-Five Essays: Manipulation of Time and Place

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Slaughterhouse Five - Manipulation of Time and Place

 Kurt Vonnegut's manipulation of time and place adds a science- fiction element to Slaughterhouse-Five. Structarally, the novel is far from traditional.

Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist, jumps from place to place and is in a constant time warp while on the planet Tralfamadore. Since Vonnegut uses the planet Tralfamadore and the Tralfamadorian people to take Billy from place to place and time frame to time frame, in the novel he constantly respects the phrase "So it goes," which describes the Tralfamadorians' view of death. Vonnegut's manipulation of time and place is definitely unusual.

Billy, an optometrist in Ilium, New York, finds himself "time tripping" with the people on Tralfamadore. To the Tralfamadorians time does not exist. Billy can be on Tralfamadore for years, while only being absent from earth for a microsecond (26). Billy's "time tripping" also allows Vonnegut to join the three main settings and experiences of the book: the horrors of the war and Dresden, Billy's normal life in Illim, and his time on Tralfamadore.

Billy has no control over his being in a time warp. In the midst of his life in New York he will suddenly find himself Tralfamadore; he has become "unstuck in time" ( 22). The Tralfamadorians eventually show Billy the important moments of his life, but they do not always show them in sequence. They do this so Billy can fully understand the true reasons for and the importance of the events.

Vonnegut also uses this tactic of time manipulation. He tells and shows the occurrences of Billy's life in a juxtaposed manner which parallels the "time tripping." The "time tripping" and being "unstuck in time" allow Vonnegut to present the events of the war in a sequence through which they would have the greatest impact on the reader.

Vonnegut's manipulation of time and place in Slaughterhouse-Five allows him to use the phrase "So it goes" for special impact . The phrase appears after every death scene. It allows the bridge from death to life, and it also allows Vonnegut to change the time frame or place of the action. According to one source, the phrase "So it goes" appears in the novel over 100 times (Boomhower).

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Vonnegut's unusual manipulation of time and place in Slaughterhouse-Five makes the novel one of a kind. The time tripping and Billy's being "unstuck in time" allow for the book to take many different routes. Furthermore, they allow Vonnegut to present occurrences of the Dresden experience in a way that would have the greatest impact on the reader. The manipulation of time enables Vonnegut to intertwine some science-fiction elements into his anti-war novel.