The Parallel Plot Lines in Slaughterhouse-Five

The Parallel Plot Lines in Slaughterhouse-Five

Length: 1211 words (3.5 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
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

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"The Parallel Plot Lines in Slaughterhouse-Five." 24 Aug 2019

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Looking Into the Past in Vonnegut's Slaughter House-Five Essay

- Looking Into the Past in Vonnegut's Slaughter House-Five In the spring of 1945, near the end of World War II, American and British bombers rained a hail of fire upon the city of Dresden, Germany. With an estimated 135,000 dead, Dresden is known as one of the deadliest attacks in History, nearly twice as many deaths than the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Kurt Vonnegut was among the few who lived through the firestorm; he wrote a book about it in fact. Slaughter House-Five (1969) is a fictional recount of his experience of the war....   [tags: Slaughterhouse-Five Essays]

Research Papers
1018 words (2.9 pages)

Free Will, Warfare, Slaughterhouse Five, By Kurt Vonnegut Essay

- Free Will and Warfare in Slaughterhouse Five Slaughterhouse Five is an oddly charming, anti-war book with a rather relevant historical background written by Kurt Vonnegut, who experienced first hand the events in Dresden during World War II. Vonnegut was a prisoner in Dresden, Germany, and at the time Dresden was a relatively defenseless and militarily bleak city. "The city was fire bombed so successfully (and senselessly) that 135,000 civilians were killed in the violent fire storm" (McKean). The suffering in Dresden was so horrible that writers, artists and historians have had a hard time conveying how horrible it actually was....   [tags: Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut]

Research Papers
1500 words (4.3 pages)

Essay on Slaughterhouse Five, By Kurt Vonnegut

- Most novels are not able to adequately present two distinct themes that oppose each other; Slaughterhouse-Five is not most novels. It is unique in almost every way, especially with respect to its themes. In Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut develops, to the surprise of the reader, the themes of both the necessity of the concept of free will and its illusion. While these themes seem to contradict each other, they are also complimentary. Kurt Vonnegut’s unique writing style enables the reader to perceive both of these themes in the text....   [tags: Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut]

Research Papers
1867 words (5.3 pages)

Billy Pilgrim's Struggle with PTSD in Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five Essay

- In order to illustrate the devastating affects of war, Kurt Vonnegut afflicted Billy Pilgrim with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which caused him to become “unstuck in time” in the novel. Billy Pilgrim illustrates many symptoms of PTSD throughout the story. Vonnegut uses these Slaughterhouse Five negative examples to illustrate the horrible and devastating examples of war. The examples from the book are parallel to real life experiences of war veterans, including Vonnegut’s, and culminate in a very effective anti-war novel....   [tags: Slaughterhouse Five]

Research Papers
1779 words (5.1 pages)

Essay on Slaughterhouse Five, By Kurt Vonnegut

- Kurt Vonnegut has built a universe for Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse-Five where Billy’s cruel, unforgiving reality is contrasted by a philosophical utopia where he has learned to operate without the pains of being human. Within this self-described ‘telegraphic’ and ‘schizophrenic’ novel, Vonnegut manages to swing the reader halfway across the galaxy to a planet inhabited by a plunger-like race called the Tralfamadorians, take them into the harrowing depths of a POW camp, and show you a man who is increasingly coming undone at the seams after having lived with the psychological terrors of the Dresden bombing....   [tags: Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut, Kilgore Trout]

Research Papers
2076 words (5.9 pages)

Comic and Tragic Elements in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five Essay

- Comic and Tragic Elements in Slaughterhouse Five   Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., is the tale of a World War II soldier, Billy Pilgrim. His wartime experiences and their effects lead him to the ultimate conclusion that war is unexplainable. To portray this effectively, Vonnegut presents the story in two dimensions: historical and science-fiction. The irrationality of war is emphasized in each dimension by contrasts in its comic and tragic elements. The historical seriousness of the Battle of the Bulge and the bombing of Dresden are contrasted by many ironies and dark humor; the fantastical, science-fiction-type place of Tralfamadore is, in truth, an outlet for Vonnegut to...   [tags: Slaughterhouse-Five Essays]

Research Papers
1486 words (4.2 pages)

Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions Essay

- Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions Who would have ever thought the way a radioactive particle decays would relate to whether or not we have bad attitudes towards life. Who would have ever suspected that the structure of space-time would be so closely linked to whether or not we would marry rich wives. And who indeed would have ever expected that the properties of light might affect whether or not we go on homicidal rampages. Perhaps Kurt Vonnegut did. Could it be possible that a writer known more for his pictures of assholes than his knowledge of advanced physics actually centered some of the deepest concepts in his works on the philosophical implications of gen...   [tags: Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse Breakfast Essays]

Research Papers
3300 words (9.4 pages)

The Theme of Time in Slaughterhouse-Five Essay

- The Theme of Time in Slaughterhouse-Five Many writers in history have written science fiction novels and had great success with them, but only a few have been as enduring over time as Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. Slaughterhouse-Five is a personal novel which draws upon Vonnegut's experience's as a scout in World War Two, his capture and becoming a prisoner of war, and his witnessing of the fire bombing of Dresden in February of 1945 (the greatest man-caused massacre in history). The novel is about the life and times of a World War Two veteran named Billy Pilgrim....   [tags: Slaughterhouse-Five Essays]

Research Papers
1071 words (3.1 pages)

Death and Time in Slaughterhouse-Five Essay

- Death and Time in Slaughterhouse-Five We all wish we could travel through time, going back to correct our stupid mistakes or zooming ahead to see the future. In Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse-Five, however, time travel does not seem so helpful. Billy Pilgrim, Vonnegut's main character, has come unstuck in time. He bounces back and forth between his past, present, and future lives in a roller coaster time trip that proves both senseless and numbing. Examining Billy's time traveling, his life on Tralfamadore, and the novel's schizophrenic structure shows that time travel is actually a metaphor for our human tendency to avoid facing the unpleasant reality of death....   [tags: Slaughterhouse-Five Essays]

Research Papers
816 words (2.3 pages)

plotlear King Lear Essays: Importance of the Parallel Plot in King Lear

- Importance of the Parallel Plot in King Lear Literature can be expressed using many different techniques and styles of writing, some very effective and others not as much. One of the methods chosen by many is the use of so called "parallel" plots. "Parallel" plots, or sometimes referred to as minor, give the opportunity of experiencing a secondary storyline going along with the main plot that otherwise would be unmentioned. William Shakespeare shows excellent use of a parallel plot in his play "King Lear", but some question it's essentiality by asking: Is it really necessary....   [tags: King Lear essays]

Research Papers
800 words (2.3 pages)

Related Searches

and into the camp unloading area: "They had never dealt with
Americans before, but they understood this general sort of
freight...[it] could be induced to flow slowly toward cooing and
light. It was nighttime. The only light outside came from
a single bulb which hung from a pole...All was quiet outside,
except for the guards, who cooed like doves." A similar situation
occurs later in the novel when Billy is abducted by the
Tralfamadorians. The spaceship hovers over Billy, the only sound
being made sounded like it might have been a from "melodious
owl." As the owl song of the saucer continues, Billy is enveloped
in a pulsating purple light and has no choice but to rise toward
it, not unlike the single light that Billy moved toward in the
German POW camp in World War 2. Vonnegut has given us two
undeniably different types of abductions and gives them similar
characteristics to give them a more meaningful cosmic

Billy Pilgrim is later trapped on the Tralfamadorian
space-ship, which may or may not exist in Billy's reality, but
undoubtedly exists within Billy's own mind. Vonnegut attempts to
explain to us, in the guise of the aliens communicating with
Billy Pilgrim, the reality of time. According to the aliens, Free
Will does not exist except within the human imagination. Our
destinies are out of our hands, and time is one continuous arc.
When Billy asks the simple question, "why me?" his response is
all at once troubling, revealing, mysterious, and hopeful: "Why
you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment
simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber?...Well, here
we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is
no why." Billy actually has a ladybug trapped in a sliver of
amber on his desk in his optometrist's office, bringing together
once again the cosmic significance of everyday objects, such as
fossilized insects or nocturnal owls. The fact that both the
fossilized insect and the owl appear in one form or another
within Billy's Illium office lends creedence to the possibility
that the alien abduction experienced by Billy existed only within
his own mind.

To further explain the mystery of time to Billy's
comparatively feeble mind, the Tralfamadorian alien compares all
time to a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, where each peak is
a moment in time and those with the ability of
fourth-dimensional travel can look at any of these peaks.
Vonnegut might be alluding to the possibilities of the power of
the human mind should we, as a race, evolve to the level of the

Throughout the first chapter of Slaughterhouse-Five,
Vonnegut tells us how whenever he was asked what he was working
on, he responded, "a book about Dresden." He thinks of this
response as his endless curse, like the song that goes:

My name is Yon Yonson, I work in Wisconsin, I work in
a lumbermill there. The people I meet when I walk down
the street, They say, 'What is your name?' And I say
'My name is Yon Yonson, I work in Wisconson...(pg.3)'

And so on into infinity. Yon Yonson repeats and repeats the
same lines in that song. Since Yon Yonson is asked the same
question repeatedly, he is forced to give the same answer over
and over again. Likewise, Vonnegut believes that he will never be
able to shake the response he had been giving to everyone who
asked him what his current project is. He feared that he would be
doomed to repeat that he was working on a "book about Dresden" ad
infinitum, just as the fictional Yon Yonson would be cursed to
repeat his song forever. Apparently, the Yon Yonson song was
a well known joke in the mid-sixties, much like the Sheri Lewis
trademark "This is the song that never ends..." Vonnegut has
attempted to relate the song to his plight in order that the
reader might better understand his plight and need to finish the
"book about Dresden."

As stated before, the concept of synchronicity is a popular
one among followers of Jung and many postmodern underground
sci-fi groupies. Synchronicity is defined as a "resonance formed
between two events unrelated in time and space"
( Simply put,
synchronicity is the cosmic significance of correspondence
between unrelated occurances. Synchronicity connects Pink
Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album to the film "The Wizard of
Oz". It connects the objects in Billy Pilgrim's office to the
events surrounding his two different abductions. It connects
a jokey song to Vonnegut's quest to complete his Dresden novel.
Synchronicity is an important staple of the science fiction
genre. Vonnegut proves his meddle as a science fiction writer,
and indeed as a writer proper, by using the concept of
synchronicity within his own work. He interweaves loose threads
and unrelated events and objects to give them meaning and to
relate them to reality, no matter how fanciful they may be. By
weaving the strings of various plotlines, namely the events
happening within Billy's reality and Billy's imagination and the
events occuring within the past, present, and future, Kurt
Vonnegut gives us insight into how a piece of science fiction
should make a person question the meaning of the everyday events
within his own reality.
Return to