The Parallel Plot Lines in Slaughterhouse-Five

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The Parallel Plot Lines in Slaughterhouse-Five

Kurt Vonnegut is and will always in my eyes and in the eyes

of many others the writer who made the science-fiction genre safe

for not only mainstream appeal, but also critical acclaim and

intellectual contemplation. Even though Arthur C. Clarke's 2001:

A Space Odyssey and Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker series were

released in roughly the same timeframe as Kurt Vonnegut's

Slaughterhouse-Five, none has held the same aura of respect and

significance to the literary zeitgeist as Vonnegut's monumental

masterpiece. The respect Slaughterhouse-Five garnishes among

bookworms and the intellectual elite alike is no accident. Kurt

Vonnegut's universal acclaim and appeal surely comes in no small

part from his gift for connecting, almost unnoticiably, seemingly

unrelated objects and events to give them deeper meaning,

creating a phenomenon known within Jungian circles as

synchronicity. By making his novel so multi-layered by drawing

these comparisons, such as in being transported from a train car

into a POW camp to an extraterrestrial spaceship that hums like

a melodious owl, human beings being trapped within each moment in

time like an insect in amber, and the writer's own repetition of

his current project to a jokey old song, the writer gives us

a deeper insight into the real multi-layeredness of space and


When Billy Pilgrim and his fellow POWs are transported out

of their train car and toward the POW camp, Vonnegut compares the

calm peeking-in and speech of the Axis power guards to the

behavior of an owl. The owl had been mentioned earlier in the

novel, more specifically in the persona of a clock hanging in

Billy's office, and is brought up again here to describe Billy's

antagonists: "The guards peeked in Billy's car owlishly, cooed

calmingly." By using the owl already mentioned in the novel as

a metaphor, Vonnegut makes an otherwise uncomfortable and tense

situation more familiar. The writer uses this metaphor again

while telling of the movement of the POWs out of the train car

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