The Theme of Time in Slaughterhouse Five

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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.

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