: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time
…He has seen his birth and death many times, he says, and pays random
visits to all the events in between. He says. 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.” (Vonnegut 29)
“So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by
and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.
We have heard of those princes' heroic campaigns.” (Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney, page 1)
“Each clump of symbols is a brief urgent message—describing a situation, a scene. We Tralfamadorians read them all at once, not one after the other. There isn’t any particular relationship between the messages, except that the author has chose them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen at one time” (Vonnegut 112).
While still bound to the conventions
of the written novel, Kurt Vonnegut
clearly intended to emulate his own description of alien
novels. The book is written in short sections of several paragraphs, each telling an ancedote
or a detail that advances the story. Often, Billy time-travels between each section, moving to another part of life that often parallels
the action in another time. Rather than have the plot progress linearly in the Earthling sense of time
, the author brings the reader into a completely new world, with its own forces and rules, with virtues
that almost completely contradict our own.
Three times in Slaughterhouse-Five, the author starts a passage with the mandate “Listen:” (pages 29, 101, and 173). This order gives the narration the feel of a legend passed on orally, like the speaker is imploring his audience to quiet doen because something important is going to happen. This parallels the first line of Beowulf, which has been translated as “Listen”, “Hear me!”, or in the quote above, “So.” Beowulf almost certainly began as an oral tradition, and even though the structure of the Slaughterhouse-Five seems very unconventional, the author still employs classic storytelling techniques to draw attention to key changes in the narrative.
Note: SL5 can also be divided in sections seperated by "Listen:".