by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse-Five Time Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Section.Paragraph)
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.' (2.7.3)
If we could live life out of order and pick and choose what to experience, could we learn anything from the past? Is Slaughterhouse-Five trying to teach anything, or is it simply an effort to represent a series of conflicting ideas?
Billy Pilgrim had stopped in the forest. He was leaning against a tree with his eyes closed. His head was tilted back and his nostrils were flaring. He was like a poet in the Parthenon.
This was when Billy first came unstuck in time. His attention began to swing grandly through the full arc of his life, passing into death, which was violet light. There wasn't anybody else there, or anything. There was just violet light – and a hum. (2.25.1-2)
For the first time, as Billy is faced with the possibility of his own death, he sees his life literally flashing before his eyes. How does the book take the idea of traumatic flashbacks and run with it? What purpose does Billy's time travel serve in Slaughterhouse-Five?
[Billy is watching a war movie in reverse.]
When the [American] bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals . . .
The American fliers turned in their uniforms, became high school kids. And Hitler turned into a baby, Billy Pilgrim supposed. That wasn't in the movie. Billy was extrapolating. Everybody turned into a baby, and all humanity, without exception, conspired biologically to produce two perfect people named Adam and Eve, he supposed. (4.4.1-2)
Billy imagines going back to a time before the war. But to go back far enough to avoid pain and suffering, you'd have to go all the way back to Adam and Eve. Again, war seems to be part of human nature, and how do we fight that?