Tick-Tock.. or Tock-Tick?
In Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut’s message is, people are more worried about time, and have more of an obsession with chronological order, that they sometimes forget to embrace the highlights. The illusion of chronological time is a key theme in Vonnegut’s novel because it gives prime examples and scenarios where chronological time is important to the characters.
Since the beginning, humans have worked with time. Humans have gradually become more and more “obsessed” with the chronological order of things, therefore, tending to forget to cherish life’s sweetest moments. Vonnegut demonstrates this theory with multiple samples of proof within Slaughterhouse-Five. “Sometimes I try to call up old girlfriend’s on the telephone late at night, after my wife has gone to bed”(7). Right from the start of the novel, Vonnegut is giving us an example where someone would rather engage in time, than cherish a moment. Many people truly embrace the fact they get to fall asleep next to their significant other, let alone be with them, every single day and every single night. Although this is not the case with the narrator at this point on the novel. The narrator, at this point, would rather secretly go behind his wife’s back and call up old girlfriend’s late after she is asleep, than lay down and rest alongside her. The illusion of chronological time appears as a recurring theme in Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five. Another instance where the obsession with time happens, when the novel says “..the Englishmen had known for 12 hours that the American guests were on their way…. their clothes were aromatic with the feast they had been preparing”(95). The Englishmen knew the Americans were coming, so they did everything they could to prepare. They had gone crazy trying to get their preparations completed in a timely, orderly conduct. The Englishmen did everything in a certain order, the order that they felt was right. Vonnegut wants us to think chronological time really exists, but to realize it is an illusion. Vonnegut illustrates this again towards the end of the novel when he writes “... the clocks ticked on, the fire crackled, the translucent candles dripped… one hundred American prisoners of war”(181). By making a point of the clock ticking, followed by the continuing sentence, telling us that the American prisoners of war had arrived, the author is signifying that things are going accordingly. Accordingly to this so-called “chronological time.”
The theme of the illusion of chronological time is still on-going throughout the novel Slaughterhouse-Five. “Listen: Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time”(23). Vonnegut introduces us to the idea that time is something we can sometimes become hung up on and “stuck” in. He explains that Billy, has...