by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse-Five Time Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Section.Paragraph)
Time obsessed [Céline]. Miss Ostrovsky reminded me of the amazing scene in Death on the Installment Plan where Céline wants to stop the bustling of a street crowd. He screams on paper, Make them stop . . . don't let them move anymore at all . . . There, make them freeze . . . once and for all! . . . So that they won't disappear anymore! (1.20.3)
We can't help but notice a striking similarity between Céline's desire to stop time to keep people from dying and Billy Pilgrim's decision that time can never change, so people never really die. How does Vonnegut use other fictional and nonfictional sources to build his novel?
Billy is spastic in time, has no control over where he is going next, and the trips aren't necessarily fun. He is in a constant state of stage fright, he says, because he never knows what part of his life he is going to have to act in next. (2.1.5)
Billy has not just lost control over the most fundamental constant we come to expect in life – time. He also feels phony in performing his own life. This lack of conviction about who he is makes Billy a nontraditional hero for a novel. Who in the novel does have a strong sense of self? And is this necessarily a good thing to have?
The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist. (2.7.2)
Even if it's true that death is only a fleeting moment in a person's life, are human beings capable of experiencing another person's death this way? Is it possible for us not to cry at funerals? Does Billy's philosophy have any resonance or meaning for you?