Slaughterhouse-Five

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Barbershop Quartet Symbol Analysis

Barbershop Quartet Symbol Icon
Again, although the barbershop quartet only appears in a few places in the novel, it is an important link between the worlds Billy Pilgrim inhabits—in which he is “stuck” and “unstuck.” Billy does not understand why, during his and Valencia’s wedding anniversary party, he is shaken by the sight of four men singing together. Later these four men will sing on the plane that, in crashing, nearly kills Billy and sets off, indirectly, Valencia’s death. Only after remembering—not traveling through time—does Billy see that the barbershop quartet resembles the four German soldiers standing together, along with the 100 US POWs, in the slaughterhouse during the bombing. Kilgore Trout picks up on the importance of this connection, claiming he knows that Billy is seeing through a “time window.” And indeed the quartet triggers a cascade of connections between Billy’s past in the war, his violent life afterward, and his investigations of time under the influence of the Tralfamadorians.
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Barbershop Quartet Symbol Timeline in Slaughterhouse-Five

The timeline below shows where the symbol Barbershop Quartet appears in Slaughterhouse-Five. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 7
War and Death Theme Icon
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
Witness and Truth Theme Icon
A barbershop quartet on the plane begins to sing for everyone’s amusement. They sing Polish songs and Billy... (full context)
Chapter 8
War and Death Theme Icon
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
Witness and Truth Theme Icon
A barbershop quartet (same as on the plane, later) sings “That Old Gang of Mine” to Valencia and... (full context)
War and Death Theme Icon
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
Witness and Truth Theme Icon
...in the city was on fire. The German guards drew together, standing, and resembled the barbershop quartet singing downstairs at the party. (full context)
War and Death Theme Icon
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
Science Fiction and Aliens Theme Icon
Witness and Truth Theme Icon
...a story, and he tells of Dresden, the firebombing, and the guards who resemble a barbershop quartet , the surface of the city like a moon. After the firebombing, guards ordered the... (full context)