In Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, he talks about World War II. He discusses the concept of time. In the first chapter he writes, “The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks…The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again. There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling, I had to believe whatever clocks said- and calendars” (pg 20). Vonnegut discusses time in this way because humans revolve around time, and always has been. We have somewhere to go, something to do, every minute of the day. Also, because Vonnegut was a war veteran, the concept of time may be distorted. Meaning, looking back on his life, he wonders where the time went. Many adults feel this way, but as a veteran, it’s more meaningful because of how many days, weeks, months, years they spent fighting in the war. This is important because it can show how useless the concept of time actually is. Maybe Vonnegut is trying to show that we can live in a world without time.
Billy Pilgrim, a character in Vonnegut’s novel, is the prime example of discussing time in his book. He mentions over and over how Billy is traveling through time. One minute he’s in Germany, fighting the war, the next he’s forty-four years old preparing for his daughter’s wedding. I think that Billy has schizophrenia and is struggling to recognize the past from reality. Schizophrenia is a disease where people live in a different world. Billy thinks he’s in a place called Traflamadore, and this is probably because Billy is schizophrenic. Also, because Billy was in an airplane crash and was fighting in the war, he probably had brain damage. Billy might also be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. This illness can distort people’s perception of time. They can be in one place, in the present, and “travel” back to the place where they were traumatized. This further proves Vonnegut’s concept of time because he mentions again and again that Billy is “traveling”. Also, Vonnegut’s portrayal of Billy’s mental illness reflects the time period this book was written. Mental illnesses weren’t taken seriously, especially regarding war veterans. Their mental states were disregarded. Vonnegut most likely suffered from mental illness, whether it was depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or even schizophrenia. He writes this book to help him get through the pain.
I believe that Vonnegut discusses the concept of time in his book to show how distorted it really is. He focuses on Billy Pilgrim, who suffers from “time traveling” to prove this point. Billy is always confused on where he is because he constantly goes back and forth from the past to the present. Vonnegut’s story reflects that humans revolve around time and how useless that is.