What is the impact of vonnegut’s unconventional structure and style?
PlotBilly Pilgrim is the protagonist and hero of the book. He serves asan assistant to a chaplain (priest attached to an army) in the USmilitary during the Second World War. The story shifts abruptlyfrom one moment in Billy’s life to another, moving before, duringand after his wartime experiences (and not in that order...). AsVonnegut bluntly repeats: “Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.”
Unstuck in time Structure• Chapter one: an impromptu introduction?• “All this happened, more or less.” myrpgame.com
Unstuck in time Structure • Narrative structure: the ‘time traveling’ of Billy Pilgrim • Unstuck in time and space: kidnapped by Tralfamadorians, who read books with “no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects... [instead] many marvelous moments seen all at one time.”
“This lousy little book” Vonnegut’s Style • Self-deprecating; dark sense of humour • Rhythmic, repetitive: “So it goes.” • Draws attention to its own artifice: “There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters.”
Dresden• A city in eastern Germany• February 13 - 15 1945: two days of fire-bombing by RAF and US Air Force.• An estimated 25,000 people died.• Kurt Vonnegut survived in the shelter of an old slaughterhouse.• Billy Pilgrim describes the destroyed city as being Richard Peter (1895–1977)
ConclusionThis is a brilliant and thought-provoking book, despite its author’sclaims to the contrary. Vonnegut experiments with structure andform in order to express the inexpressible, and he uses elementsof fantasy to view a reality too raw to comprehend.
• All quotations taken from 1970 Jonathan Cape edition.