"Billy is spastic in time, has no control over where he is going next, and the trips aren't necessarily fun. He is in a constant state of stage fright, he says, because he never knows what part of his life he is going to have to act in next " (Vonnegut 29). What would a soldier experience in a war that killed hundreds of thousands of people? What would happen to the sanity of that soldier if he was kept prisoner and had nothing to live for and nobody to love him? The answer lies in Billy Pilgrim, a soldier, who undergoes an abundance of changes throughout his lifetime. While serving in World War II, Billy Pilgrim witnesses the fire-bombing of Dresden and was a prisoner of war behind the German enemy lines. After his retirement, Billy becomes insane and imagines a new world called Tralfamadore where all is better. He believes he can time travel and sees how events will be played out and how he will die. In the novel Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut portrays how events shape a person's mindset by exploring the past, imaginary, and current world of the life of Billy Pilgrim.
The past life of Billy Pilgrim set up how he would live his life and shaped how he views the world. Early in the novel, the reader is introduced to Billy's father. "Little Billy was terrified, because his father had said Billy was going to learn to swim by the method of sink-or-swim. His father was going to throw Billy into the deep end, and Billy was going to damn well swim " (Vonnegut 55). The reader learns that Billy's childhood life is filled with abuse and his father does not care or love him at all. When Billy is young he does not have a good father figure or role model to look up to. Billy feels that he has to grow up on his own and become a real man so he can fend for himself. In order to accomplish this goal, Billy joins the army. "But then this damn college kid, who was so weak he shouldn't even have been in the army, asked if he could come along.