“So they were trying to re-invent themselves and their universe,” says the narrator in Slaughterhouse Five. This quote sums up one of the main themes in the novel quite nicely. Trying to cope with his life and especially his experiences in WWII, Billy Pilgrim becomes unstuck in time. He creates a new universe where he can travel back in forth in time to escape the situation he’s in. His time travel lets Billy conveniently escape whatever situation he doesn’t want to deal with, like visiting with his mother in the hospital. When each time shift occurs, it’s interrelated to whatever Billy happens to be thinking about or experiencing. Billy’s thoughts are heavily influenced by his favorite author, Kilgore Trout. Billy even states the similarities between his time on Tralfamadore and Trout’s novels, in particular the novel called The Big Board.
Slaughterhouse Five was my first foray into Vonnegut and I have to say it was amazing. This novel really got me thinking and analyzing making my English major kick in big time. There were so many themes and symbols that were just beautiful in the novel, like the one above. The other symbol I really liked in the book connected to this theme of mortality. Billy is talking to the Tralfamadorians about why they chose him to take back to their planet. The Tralfamadorians explain that every moment simply is. Like being an insect trapped in amber. This was a perfect way to explain Billy’s experiences in WWII, forever encasing him and connecting him to the tragedy of Dresden.
The narrative style of Slaughterhouse Five presents itself like a stream of consciousness writing but is very cleverly mapped out. The narrator begins the story providing the background and then the novel jumps to Billy Pilgrim and his experiences, with the narrator interjecting into Billy’s narrative making the story more universal.
I won’t give away any more about the novel because I really think you need to go pick it up and read it. Vonnegut is an amazing writer with such a unique voice and command of his own style. After finishing Slaughterhouse Five, I immediately wanted to read more of his novels. Perhaps I’ll get to explore more of the fourth dimension. So it goes.
Stay tuned for the next installment in Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!