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Is BIlly Pilgrim a Christ figure?
Transcript of Is BIlly Pilgrim a Christ figure?
Background Is Billy Pilgrim a Christ Figure? BY:
Mara Rosenstock Billy's first name (Billy rather than William or Bill) emphasizes Billy's innocent and naive characteristics. He, like all other veterans, is sacrificed like a lamb as a concequence of the interests of the world's ruling class. Teachings & Philosophies Realization of Prophecy Appearances
and Characteristics Death The Epigraph in Slaughterhouse Five states:
"The cattle are lowing,
The Baby awakes.
But the little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes."
This famous Christmas carol highlights Jesus' restraint from crying. Although both Billy and Jesus face and are challenged with horrific and humilating experiences, they rarely shed a tear. Billy also resembles Jesus when he travels to Dresden in a train and is "lying at an angle on the corner-brace, self-crucified, holding himself there with a blue and ivory claw " (Vonnegut, 1968, 80). Jesus "had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him"
(Isaiah 53:2) During his speech, Billy states that "[He] will die, have died, and always will die on February 13th, 1976" (Vonnegut, 1968, 143). Both Jesus and Billy possess the knowledge of what is to come, yet don't do anything to prevent their deaths.
Both Billy and Jesus had humble upbringings. Their parents had modest jobs--Jesus' father a carpenter, Billy's a barber. Billy and Jesus pursued careers in serving humanity. As an optometrist and a carpenter, they both started off as ordinary citizens. 50% have serious mental illnesses And 70% have substance abuse problems 51% of homeless
have disabilities Only 7% of the US population can claim veteran status According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. Sacrifice Yet 13% of the adult homeless population are veterans "It had been built as a shelter for pigs about to be butchered. Now it was going to serve as a home away from home" (Vonnegut, 1969, 152).
The "home" of the survivors immediately following the destruction at Dresden consisted of a barn--and produces the idea of a regression back to the innocence at birth; The housing--a barn--directly connects to and represents the birth of Jesus. Parallels are drawn between Jesus' birth and Billy. The idea of a barn serving as shelter ... As the Americans travel to Dresden, "Billy Pilgrim again led the parade. He had (...) a piece of azure curtain which he wore like a toga. Billy still had a beard" (Vonnegut, 1968, 147). Not only is Jesus stereotypically portrayed as wearing a toga and having a beard, he experiences a similar form of public humiliation on his way to his death on the cross. During the war outside of Dresden, Billy sees the pain the horses have to endure. "When Billy saw the condition of his means of transporation, he burst into tears. He hadn't cried about anything else in the war" (Vonnegut, 1968, 197). Both Billy and Jesus only cry when they witness the suffering of others. One of BIlly's most dominant characteristics is his passivity. He quietly accepts whatever life has in stock for him, without complaint. And is in fact "powerless to harm the enemy" (Vonnegut, 1968, 30). Billy and Jesus both sacrifice their lives as a consequence of their society's behavior. As a result of humanity's sins, Jesus "(was) oppressed, he was afflicted...he did not open his mouth, like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like sheep that is silent before its shearers" (Isaiah 53:7). Like Jesus, Billy lives in the present moment and never attempts to change or improve the situations he believes he is "destined" to live. Although Billy feels no control over his time travelling, and fears where it might take him next, not once does he attempt to manipulate where and when he will go. Did Vonnegut intend for Billy to represent a Christlike figure? Yes. There are undeniable parallels between the story of Billy Pilgrim and Jesus. As you follow their stories-- between Jesus' life and teachings and Billy's so-called life, and what he believes to be true--the similarities are everpresent. Although with different motives and intentions, the sacrifices for humanity, the burdens bore, the suffering for the sins of others, the offer of salvation and the representation of the less fortunate are all key components in the stories of both men. Billy Pilgrim is a Christlike figure. Both men also share unpleasant physical appearances. Billy "was a funny-looking child (...) tall and weak like a bottle of Coca-Cola" and "looked like a filthy flamingo" (Vonnegut, 1969, 23,33). Both men were "the chosen ones" selected by higher beings to spread their word. Billy believes that "all moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist" and therefore when a person dies he is "in a bad condition in that particular moment, but (...) is just fine in plenty other moments" (Vonnegut, 1969, 27). "The Tralfamadorains can look at all the different moments just the way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains" (Vonnegut, 1969, 27). Both mens' ideas go drastically against the traditional norm accepted by society. As a result both men are ridiculed and declared insane. When Billy's sister Barbara is exposed to his ideas, "She said he was making a laughing stock of himself and everybody associated with him" (29). Billy also has a similar enlightening experience in water when his father throws him into a pool. When Billy "opened his eyes, he was on the bottom of the pool, and there was beautiful music everywhere. He lost consciouness, but the music went on. He dimly sensed that somebody was rescuing him. Billy resented that" (Vonnegut, 1969, 44). Jesus is well-known for his yearning to spread peace and kindness. He encourages his followers to " love (their) enemies and pray for those who persecute (them)" rather than harm them out of anger ( Matthew 5:44). When Jesus was baptized "he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him." (Matthew 3:16). Similar to Jesus' point of view, Billy believes in eternal life. Both men offer salvation to society by teaching their followers not to fear death. Jesus teaches that he is "the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in (him) will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in (him) and believes in (him) will never ever die" ( John 11:25-26). The sources of Billy's and Jesus' philosophies are super-natural and omniscient higher beings. "(God) looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens" (Job 28:24). When Jesus shares his ideas " He is despised and rejected by men" (Isaiah 53:3). Billy announces to the audience during his speech, "If you protest, if you think that death is a terrible thing, then you have not understood a word I've said" (Vonnegut, 1969, 142). Just like Jesus, Billy does not fear death. Billy continues, "It is time for you to go home to your wives and children, it is time for me to be dead for a little while--and then live again" (Vonnegut, 1968, 143). Jesus and Billy's shared view on death allows death to come off as a lighter problem than others might think. A clear connection is drawn between Billy "living again" and the death and resurrection of Jesus. Billy's last name (Pilgrim) introduces him as a voyager who travels to foreign lands for a spiritual purpose, similar to Jesus. The "heavens open up" for Billy as well when the Tralfamadorians descend upon him for the first time.