Suggested Essay Topics. 1. Many Vonnegut novels deal with traffickers of “useful lies.” Are the lessons of Tralfamadore useful lies? Why or why not? 2. Is Billy Pilgrim sane or insane? Does it matter? 3. Discuss the use of irony or black humor in Slaughterhouse-Five. 4. What does Vonnegut achieve by placing himself as a character in the story? Slaughterhouse-Five Essay: Three Themes of Slaughterhouse-Five Words | 4 Pages The Three Themes of Slaughterhouse-Five Kurt Vonnegut did a great job in writing an irresistible reading novel in which one is not permitted to laugh, and yet still be a sad book without tears. The novel “Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade” was released at the height of antiwar sentiment, becoming the literary manifesto of American society in the fight against the Vietnam War. Slaughterhouse Five Summary SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. The narrator begins the story describing his connection to the fire-bombing of Dresden and his reasons for writing Slaughterhouse-Five. Billy Pilgrim A fatalistic optometrist ensconced in a dull, safe marriage in Ilium, New York.
Plot[ edit ] The story is told in a nonlinear order, and events become clear through flashbacks or time travel experiences from the unreliable narrator. He describes the stories of Billy Pilgrim, who believes he was held in an alien zoo and has experienced time travel. Billy Pilgrim, a chaplain's assistant in the United States Army during World War II, is an ill-trained, disoriented, and fatalistic American soldier who refuses to fight "Billy wouldn't do anything to save himself".
Billy approaches death due to a string of events. Before the Germans capture Billy, he meets Roland Weary, a patriot, warmonger, and bully just out of childhood like Billy , who derides the soldier's cowardice. When Weary is captured, the Germans confiscate everything he has, including his boots, giving him hinged, wooden clogs to wear; Weary eventually dies in Luxembourg of gangrene caused by wounds from the stiff clogs.
While dying in a railcar full of prisoners, Weary convinces fellow soldier Paul Lazzaro that Billy is to blame for his death.
Lazzaro vows to avenge Weary's death by killing Billy, because revenge is "the sweetest thing in life. Billy and the other prisoners are transported by the Germans to Luxembourg.
By , the Germans transport the prisoners to Dresden to work in "contract labor" forced labor. This results in their being among the few survivors of the firestorm that raged in the city between 13 and 15 February Soon, Billy is hospitalized with symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder and placed under psychiatric care.
A man named Eliot Rosewater introduces Billy to the novels of an obscure science fiction author named Kilgore Trout.
After his release, Billy marries Valencia Merble. Valencia's father owns the Ilium School of Optometry that Billy later attends.
In , Billy and Valencia's first child, Robert, is born. Two years later their daughter Barbara is born. On Barbara's wedding night, Billy is captured by an alien space ship and taken to a planet light-years away from Earth called Tralfamadore.
The Tralfamadorians are described as seeing in four dimensions, simultaneously observing all points in the space-time continuum. They universally adopt a fatalistic worldview: Death means nothing but "so it goes". On Tralfamadore, Billy is put in a transparent geodesic dome exhibit in a zoo; the dome represents a house on Earth.
The Tralfamadorians later abduct a movie star named Montana Wildhack, who had disappeared and was believed to have drowned herself in the Pacific Ocean. They intend to have her mate with Billy. She and Billy fall in love and have a child together. Billy is instantaneously sent back to Earth in a time warp to relive past or future moments of his life.
In , Billy and a copilot are the only survivors of a plane crash.
Valencia dies of carbon monoxide poisoning while driving to visit Billy in the hospital. Billy shares a hospital room with Bertram Rumfoord, a Harvard history professor. They discuss the bombing of Dresden, which the professor claims was justified, despite the great loss of civilian lives and destruction of the city.
Billy's daughter takes him home to Ilium. He escapes and flees to New York City. In Times Square he visits a pornographic book store. Billy discovers books written by Kilgore Trout and reads them. Later in the evening, when he discusses his time-travels to Tralfamadore on a radio talk show, he is evicted from the studio. He returns to his hotel room, falls asleep, and time-travels back to in Dresden, where the book ends.
Due to the non-chronological story telling, other parts of Billy's life are told throughout the book. After being evicted from the radio studio, Barbara treats Billy as a child and often monitors him. Robert becomes starkly anti-Communist and a Green Beret. Billy eventually dies in after giving a speech in a baseball stadium in which he predicts his own death and claims that "if you think death is a terrible thing, then you have not understood a word I've said. Narrator Intrusive and recurring as a minor character, the narrator seems anonymous while also clearly identifying himself when he, the narrator, says: That was the author of this book.
During World War II, he was held as a prisoner of war in Dresden, surviving the firebombing, experiences which had a lasting effect on his post-war life.
His time travel occurs at desperate times in his life; he re-lives events past and future and becomes fatalistic though not a defeatist because he has seen when, how and why he will die.
Roland Weary A weak man dreaming of grandeur and obsessed with gore and vengeance, who saves Billy several times despite Billy's protests in hopes of military glory. Weary gets them captured, leading to the loss of his winter uniforms and boots. Weary dies of gangrene in the train en route to the POW camp and blames Billy in his dying words.
A sickly, ill-tempered car thief from Cicero, Illinois, who takes Weary's dying words as a revenge commission to kill Billy.
He keeps a mental list of his enemies, claiming he can have anyone "killed for a thousand dollars plus traveling expenses. Kilgore Trout A failed science fiction writer who makes money by managing newspaper delivery boys and has received only one fan letter from Eliot Rosewater; see below.
After Billy meets him in a back alley in Ilium, New York, he invites Trout to his wedding anniversary celebration. There, Kilgore follows Billy, thinking the latter has seen through a "time window. Edgar Derby A middle-aged man who has pulled strings to be able to fight in the war. He was a high school teacher who felt that he needed to participate rather than just sending off his students to fight.
Though relatively unimportant, he seems to be the only American before the bombing of Dresden to understand what war can do to people. German forces summarily execute him for looting.
Vonnegut has said that this death is the climax of the book as a whole. Before the war, he lived in Germany where he was a noted German-language playwright and Nazi propagandist. In an essay, he connects the misery of American poverty to the disheveled appearance and behavior of the American POWs.
Campbell is the protagonist of an earlier Vonnegut novel, Mother Night. Valencia Merble Billy's wife and mother of their children, Robert and Barbara. Billy is emotionally distant from her. She dies from carbon monoxide poisoning after an automobile accident en route to the hospital to see Billy after his airplane crash. Robert Pilgrim Son of Billy and Valencia. A troubled, middle-class boy and disappointing son who so absorbs the anti-Communist world view that he metamorphoses from suburban adolescent rebel to Green Beret sergeant.
Barbara Pilgrim Daughter of Billy and Valencia. She is a "bitchy flibbertigibbet," from having had to assume the family's leadership at the age of twenty. She has "legs like an Edwardian grand piano," marries an optometrist, and treats her widower father as a childish invalid.
Tralfamadorians The extraterrestrial race who appear to humans like upright toilet plungers with a hand atop, in which is set a green eye. They abduct Billy and teach him about time's relation to the world as a fourth dimension , fate, and death's nature. The Tralfamadorians are featured in several Vonnegut novels. In Slaughterhouse Five, they reveal that the universe will be accidentally destroyed by one of their test pilots.
Montana Wildhack A model who stars in a film showing in a pornographic book store when Billy stops in to look at the Kilgore Trout novels sitting in the window.
She is featured on the covers of magazines sold in the store. Abducted and placed with Billy on Tralfamadore, she has sex with him and they have a child. He dies of pneumonia. Eliot Rosewater Billy befriends him in the veterans' hospital; he introduces Billy to the sci fi novels of Kilgore Trout. Rosewater wrote the only fan letter Trout ever received. Rosewater had also suffered a terrible event during the war. They find the Trout novels help them deal with the trauma.
Bertram Copeland Rumfoord A Harvard history professor, retired Air Force brigadier general and millionaire, who shares a hospital room with Billy and is interested in the Dresden bombing.
Roland refers to him and the scouts as the " Three Musketeers. They are revealed to have been shot and killed by Germans in ambush. Mary O'Hare The character briefly discussed in the beginning of the book, to whom Vonnegut promised to name the book The Children's Crusade. She is the wife of Bernard V. He is the narrator's old war friend who was also held in Dresden and accompanies him to that city after the war. He does not know his way around and accidentally leads Billy and Edgar into a communal shower where some German refugee girls from the Eastern Front are bathing.
He is described as appearing similar to Billy. They are revealed by the narrator as distant cousins but never discover this fact in the novel. Style[ edit ] The novel is simple in syntax and sentence structure, part of Vonnegut's signature style. Likewise, irony, sentimentality, black humor, and didacticism are prevalent throughout the work. Vonnegut himself has claimed that his books "are essentially mosaics made up of a whole bunch of tiny little chips Characteristically, Vonnegut makes heavy use of repetition, frequently using the phrase "So it goes" as a refrain when events of death, dying and mortality occur, as a narrative transition to another subject, as a memento mori , as comic relief , and to explain the unexplained.
It appears times. The first chapter of Slaughterhouse-Five is written in the style of an author's preface about how he came to write the novel. The Narrator begins the novel by telling of his connection to the Dresden bombing, and why he is recording it.
He gives a description of himself, and the book, saying that it is a desperate attempt at scholarly work. He segues to the story of Billy Pilgrim: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time," thus the transition from the writer's perspective to that of the third-person, omniscient Narrator.