Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s Slaughterhouse-Five tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, a man who is ‘‘unstuck’’ in time. The two central events Billy keeps returning to are his abduction by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore and his time as a prisoner of war during World War II, during which he witnesses the Allied firebombing of the German city of Dresden.
Alienation and Loneliness
Alienation may be defined as, among other things, an inability to make connections with other individuals and with society as a whole. In this sense, Billy Pilgrim is a profoundly alienated individual. He is unable to connect in a literal sense, as his being ‘‘unstuck in time’’ prevents him from building the continuous set of experiences which form a person's relationships with others. While Billy's situation is literal in the sense of being a science fiction device—he is ‘‘literally’’ travelling through time—it also serves as a metaphor for the sense of alienation and dislocation which follows the experience of catastrophic violence (World War II). This violence is, for Vonnegut and many other modern writers, a fact of life for humanity in the twentieth century. It is appropriate that what is arguably the closest relationship Billy has in the novel is with the science fiction writer Kilgore Trout, another deeply alienated individual: ‘‘He and Billy were dealing with similar crises in similar ways. They had both found life meaningless,...
(The entire section is 1068 words.)
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