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Slaughterhouse Five By Kurt Vonnegut

There have been plenty of previous instances in the book where Billy explores his difficult past through time travel but on this occasion Billy is trying not to rely on this ability. In this scene he makes a conscious effort to uses his memory to think about information from his past. From the point of view of psychology this is a good sign, because it can be interpreted as a growing ability to process traumatic events in a conscious and controlled way. Time travel, on the other hand, can be interpreted as uncontrollable flashbacks which happen to a damaged person in a chaotic way. The party is attended by Billy’s friend Trout. This character acts as a contrast to Billy because he also has experienced bad things during the war, but he deals with them in a different way. In a conversation with Maggie, who is just an ordinary civilian, Trout describes the horrors of war, even though Maggie is clearly petrified (Vonnegut 172) by his graphic descriptions. This shows that Trout is only thinking about himself, and does not have very much concern for other people. During the party Billy also finds that people and events around him trigger memories of his traumatic war time experiences during the bombing of Dresden. These memories keep intruding on the events of the eighteenth wedding anniversary but unlike Trout, Billy tries to hide what he feels. He loves Valencia and does not want to spoil the party by making a scene, and so he keeps his feelings in check. In this scene Trout guesses that Billy is having flashbacks, and knows that Billy is lying when he denies this. This shows that Trout understands that Billy is being affected by post-traumatic stress, and Trout and appears also to understand Billy’s ability to see back and forth in time. The two veterans are close friends but it is significant that Billy does not let Trout come upstairs with him while Billy relives his memories. Perhaps Billy is beginning to realize that he would be stronger without Trout’s bad influence on him. It is now time for him to move on. The narrator makes it clear that Billy is deeply upset by the barbershop singers in the words Billy was emotionally racked again (Vonnegut 175) and Billy was pulled apart inside (Vonnegut 176). This barbershop group is a clear link with the past due to the fact that it is the same quartet who were in the plane with Billy on that fateful day. Billy knows that the barbershop quartet triggers something inside him, but he cannot understand or quite place their meaning in his life on why they strike such emotion. Eventually Billy becomes sickened by the song but he still does not understand why. He feels that he has a great big secret (Vonnegut 173) inside him of which he is unaware. There is also some information in the wedding anniversary scene about the quality of Billy’s relationships with his family. The valuable diamond ring in his pocket symbolizes his genuine love for Valencia, for example. It is tainted by the fact that it comes from a horrible wartime experience. This is just like Billy’s love, which is badly damaged by trauma, but in itself something of beauty and value. By giving Valencia this ring, Billy is trying to focus on the value of his marriage as an anchor point and is using the ring as bridge from the bitter past into a more positive future. The most interesting relationship in the scene is between Billy and his son Robert. The very strange encounter between the two of them in the bathroom illustrates the strange

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