Friday, March 7

Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time

I've been desensitised to war stories.  I can read or watch them with the same level of emotion as drinking a glass of water.  But Slaughterhouse Five changed my apathy and made me feel something.  

"LISTEN: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time."

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut is a contemporary classic that tells the surreal and poignant story of Billy Pilgrim, a soldier, optometrist and time-traveller.    Billy's story centres around the 1945 bombing of Dresden, a point in time he seems never able to escape.  His life flashes forwards and backwards in apparent chaos, sometimes with fantastical sidetracks that caused me to question reality and review my attitudes towards the causes and value of war and love.

At times this novel is dawdlingly slow and at others hectic and suspenseful.  But it always provides an insanely fresh interpretation of topics that have grown dusty and clich├ęd.  I enjoyed the experience of being reawakened to the emotional impact of subjects so over-analysed they grew helpless to inspire feeling from modern readers.

The narrative voice of Slaughterhouse Five is simple and eccentric, succeeding in lullabying its reader into a dreamlike mood - much like Billy himself who is passive to the twists and turns of his bizarre fate.  The continually repeated phrases act as fingerposts in Billy's life, so strange and yet always reimagining the same images and scenes again and again.  In this way, the narrative structure reflects the cyclical rollercoaster of its readers' own lives.  This short book manages to encompass so much of life.

I was impacted by Vonnegut's depiction of post traumatic stress disorder.  There are so many interpretations of Billy's reality, but I found that looking past the question of fact versus fiction, his time travel was effective in unpacking the experience of PTSD in a way that allowed me to empathise.  Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time, but he can never escape it.

I realise reading Slaughterhouse Five has expanded my understanding and perception of many topics.  Its universality and evocation of emotional empathy makes it moving and memorable.   

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment to respond to my post or start a new conversation about whatever it is that you're passionate about.

If you don't have a Blogger or Google account, you can always leave an anonymous comment. Thankyou for taking the time!