Slaughterhouse-Five

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Main Ideas

Point of View

Main Ideas Point of View

Slaughterhouse-Five is written in the third-person omniscient point of view with interruptions from a first-person narrator who appears to be the author, Kurt Vonnegut. An omniscient narrator is one who has a godlike perspective and knows the thoughts and feelings of different characters. Interestingly, this omniscient perspective, which allows the narrator to know what is going on everywhere at any given time, also reflects Billy Pilgrim’s own experience of time. Since becoming “unstuck in time,” Billy knows the entire trajectory of his life and of the lives around him.

The first-person narrator who speaks directly to the reader in the first and last chapters of the novel appears to be the author, or at least a narrator with an identical biography. In Chapter 1, Vonnegut speaks openly about the writing of Slaughterhouse-Five , his “famous Dresden book.” He also provides details of his own life and wartime experiences. This unusual openness with the reader about the writing of the book, including his argument with Mary O’Hare, reveals Vonnegut’s desire for transparency, authenticity, and truth.

Although the first-person point of view is primarily contained within the first and final chapters, Vonnegut interrupts a few times during the Billy Pilgrim chapters, each time reinforcing the veracity of his account of the war within the fictional form of the novel. These first-person interruptions all occur during the “war parts.” In addition to these direct interruptions, there are other moments that point to Vonnegut’s presence. For instance, in Chapter 4, Billy gets a phone call from a drunk on whose breath he can “almost smell…mustard gas and roses.” In Chapter 1, Vonnegut talks about how he would get drunk and call old friends “with a breath like mustard gas and roses.” These interruptions work alongside the direct, first-person narration in the first and last chapters to reinforce the truth of Vonnegut’s war stories.