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Slaughterhouse Five

Every novelist creates a sense of time and place as part of his or her narrative strategy, and probably the most common such strategy is to emulate the passage of time as we experience it in the real world. However, this is not the only approach possible, and often the novelist will make use of time almost as another character, something that shifts and changes and that may be used to illuminate theme in the way it develops during the course of the narrative. The novelist may use time in the sense of time travel, carrying the reader from one place to another in time and challenging our basic assumptions about time and causality. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. does this overtly in Slaughterhouse-Five, using a science-fiction format to carry the main character back and forth through time as well as through space because time is a thematic subject in the novel. Film has a different conception of time, and though it can emulate a literary sense of time, the effect is different because a novel takes place in the mind of the reader over the time it takes to read it while a film has a set time frame in which to convey its imagery and ideas. The film version of Slaughterhouse Five (George Roy Hill, 1972) has more abrupt transitions than the novel because they are visual and take place in real time rather than the time-frameĀ a reader uses in reading a novel. In addition, the point of view is of necessity more objective--Billy is the central figure in both film and novel, but the novel makes him more central, with fewer distractions, than does the film.

Time is a major element in the complex structure of Slaughterhouse-Five. The ability of Billy to travel through time comes to him in 1944 when he has been captured by the Germans, but at the time he has no idea what it signifies or why it has happened to him and not to others. He does not learn this until 1966 when the Tralfamadorians explain his situation. For Billy, time passes as it does for...

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Slaughterhouse Five. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 22:53, June 24, 2019, from