and the cross
are important symbols in the novel, and are repeated numerous times both in the frame narrative (Vonnegut’s
attempt to write Slaughterhouse-Five
) and in the story of Billy Pilgrim
. Billy, whose last name is a reference to those who take trips for religious purposes (pilgrimages), is a chaplain’s assistant in the war, and though he was not religious as a child, he grew up with a crucifix on his wall. In a book written by Kilgore Trout
, Elie Rosewater
reads about a group of Tralfamadorian
-like aliens who, in a re-writing of the Gospels, insist that Jesus be a “nobody,” a person of little influence, since God’s saving of a nobody would be a more powerful and more helpful message on which to base a religion. Later, Billy stumbles upon a Trout novel in a bookstore that references Jesus and his father, a carpenter, who are invited by a Roman soldier to build a “device” to kill “a rabble-rouser.” In this way Jesus and his father actually develop the cross used in the crucifixion. Jesus represents a figure who, like Pilgrim, is capable of “moving through time,” acting as a messenger between the divine and human worlds. The crucifixion represents Jesus’ violent death, which was fated and predicted by Jesus himself (just as Billy knows his own death is coming).