Billy Pilgrim and the narrator of Slaughterhouse-Five both spend a fair amount of their time reliving their experiences in World War II. The narrator recalls the war through personal memory, historical research, and travel with his war buddy to Dresden, the site of his most painful experiences. Billy travels to the past a little more literally: he never knows when he's going to be sent from his optometry practice or his home right back to the POW compound or the slaughterhouse in Dresden where he spent part of the war. Billy has so little control over his own life that he doesn't even know when he will be, let alone where, from one moment to the next. His only cure is to take refuge in the beliefs of the Tralfamadorians: that death, free will, and time itself are all illusions.
Slaughterhouse-Five uses the Tralfamadorian idea of time as an organizing principle to blur the lines between the novel's form and content.
Billy's death scene, in which he is surrounded by adoring crowds and goes bravely to his death at the hands of Paul Lazzaro, reads like a fantasy. On the other hand, his flashbacks to his early history show how fundamentally powerless he is and has always been.