Slaughterhouse Five

We move to the first time Billy gets unstuck in time. Billy receives minimal training as a chaplain's assistant before

Slaughterhouse Five



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re are actually seven sexes, all necessary to the production of children; earthlings just do not notice the sex difference between themselves because many of the sex acts occur in the fourth dimension. These ideas baffle Billy, and they in turn are baffled by his linear concept of time. Billy expects the Trafalmadorians to be concerned about or horrified by the wars on earth. He worries that earthlings will eventually threaten all the other races in the galaxy, causing the eventual destruction of the universe. The Trafalmadorians put their hands over their eyes, which lets Billy know that he is being stupid.

The Trafalmadorians already know how the universe will end: during experiments with a new fuel, one of their test pilots pushes a button and the entire universe will disappear. They cannot prevent it. It has always happened that way. Billy correctly concludes that trying to prevent wars on Earth is futile. The Trafalmadorians also have wars, but they choose to ignore them. They spend their time looking at the pleasant moments rather than the unpleasant ones; they suggest that humans learn to do the same.

Billy leaps back in time to his wedding night. It is six months after his release from the mental ward. The narrator reminds us that Valencia and her father are very rich, and Billy will benefit greatly from his marriage to her. After they have sex, Valencia tries to ask Billy questions about the war. She wants a heroic war story, but Billy does not really respond to her. He has a crazy thought about the war, which Vonnegut says would make a good epitaph for Billy, and for the author, too: "Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt." He jumps in time to that night in the prison camp. Edgar Derby has fallen asleep. Billy, doped up still from the morphine, wanders out of the hospital shed. He snags himself on a barbed wire fence, and cannot extract himself until a Russian helps him.

Billy never really says a word to the Russian. He wanders to the latrine, where the Americans are sick from the feasting. A long period without food followed by a feast almost always results in violent sickness. Among the sick Americans is a soldier complaining that he has shit his brains out. It is Vonnegut. Billy leaves, passing by three Englishmen who watch the Americans' sickness with disgust. Billy jumps in time again, back to his wedding night. He and his wife are cozy in bed. He jumps in time again, to 1944. It is before he left for Europe; he is riding the train from South Carolina, where he was receiving his training, all the way back to Ilium for his father's funeral.

We return to Billy's morphine night in the POW camp. Paul Lazarro is carried into the hospital; while attempting to steal cigarettes from a sleeping British officer, he was beaten up. The officer is the one carrying him. Seeing now how puny Lazarro is, the officer feels guilty for hitting him so hard. But he is disgusted by the American POWs. A German soldier who adores the British officers comes in and apologizes for the inconvenience of hosting the Americans. He assures the Brits in the room that the Americans will soon be shipped off for forced labor in Dresden. The German officer reads propaganda materials written by Howard Campbell, Jr., a captured American who is now a Nazi. Campbell condemns the self-loathing of the American poor, the inequalities of America's economic system, and the miserable behavior of American POWs. Billy falls asleep and wakes up in 1968, where his daughter Barbara is scolding him. Barbara notices the house is icy cold and goes to call the oil-burner man.

Billy leaps in time to the Trafalmadorian zoo, where Montana Wildhack, a motion picture star, has been brought in to mate with him. Initially unconscious, she wakes to find naked Billy and thousands of Trafalmadorians outside their habitat. They're clapping. She screams. Eventually, though, she comes to love and trust Billy. After a week they're sleeping together. He travels in time back to his bed in 1968. The oil-burner man has fixed the problem with the heater. Billy has just had a wet dream about Montana Wildhack. The next day, he returns to work. His assistants are surprised to see him, because they thought that he would never practice again. He has the first patient sent in, a boy whose father died in Vietnam. Billy tries to comfort the boy by telling him about the Trafalmadorian concept of time. The boy's mother informs the receptionist that Billy is going crazy. Barbara comes to take him home, sick with worry about what how to deal with him.

Chapter Six. Summary:

Billy wakes after his morphine night in POW camp irresistibly drawn to two tiny treasures. They draw him like magnets; they are hidden in the lining of his coat. It will be revealed later on exactly what they are. He goes back to sleep, and wakes up to the sounds of the British building a new latrine. They have abandoned their old latrine and their meeting hall to the Americans. The man who beat up Lazarro stops by to make sure he is all right, and Lazarro promises that he is going to have the man killed after the war. After the amused Brit leaves, Lazarro tells Derby and Billy that revenge is life's sweetest pleasure. He once brutally tortured a dog that bit him. He is going to have all of his enemies killed after the war. He tells Billy that Weary was his buddy, and he is going to avenge him by having Billy shot after the war. Because of his time hopping, Billy knows that this is true. He will be shot in 1976. At that time, the United States has split into twenty tiny nations. Billy will be lecturing in Chicago on the Trafalmadorian concept of time and the fourth dimension. He tells the spectators that he is about to die, and urges them to accept it. After the lecture, he is shot in the head by a high-powered laser gun.

Back in the POW camp, Billy, Derby, and Lazarro go the theater to elect a leader. On the way over, they see a Brit drawing a line in the dirt to separate the American and British sections of the compound. In the theater, Americans are sleeping anywhere that they can. A Brit lectures them on hygiene, and Edgar Derby is elected leader. Only two or three men actually have the energy to vote. Billy dresses himself in a piece of azure curtain and Cinderella's boots. The Americans ride the train to Dresden. Dresden is a beautiful city, appearing on the horizon like something out of a fairy tale. They are met by eight German irregulars, boys and old men who will be in charge of them for the rest of the war. They march through town towards their new home. The people of Dresden watch them, and most of them are amused by Billy's outlandish costume. One surgeon is not. He scolds Billy about dignity and representing his country and war not being a joke, but Billy is honestly perplexed by the man's anger. He shows the man his two treasures from the lining of his coat: a two-carat diamond and some false teeth. The Americans are brought to their new home, a converted building originally for the slaughter of pigs. The building has a large 5 on it. The POWs are taught the German name for their new home, in case they get lost in the city. In English, it is called Slaughterhouse Five.

Chapter Seven. Summary:

Billy is on a plane next to his father-in-law. Billy and a number of optometrists have chartered a plane to go to a convention in Montreal. There's a barbershop quartet on board. Billy's father-in-law loves it when they sing songs mocking the Polish. Vonnegut mentions that in Germany Billy saw a Pole getting executed for having sex with a German girl. Billy leaps in time to his wandering behind the German lines with the two scouts and Roland Weary. He leaps in time again to the plane crash. Everyone dies but him. The plane has crashed in Vermont, and Billy is found by Austrian ski instructors. When he hears them speaking German, he thinks he's back in the war. He is unconscious for days, and during that time he dreams about the days right before the bombing.

He remembers a boy named Werner Gluck, one of the guards. He was good-natured, as awkward and puny as Billy. One day, Gluck and Billy and Derby were looking for the kitchen. Derby and Billy were pulling a two-wheeled cart; it was their duty to bring dinner back for the boys. Gluck pulled a door open, thinking the kitchen might be there, and instead revealed naked teenage girls showering, refugees from another city that was bombed. The women scream and Gluck shuts the door. When they finally find the kitchen, an old cook talks with the trio critically and proclaims that all the real soldiers are dead. Billy also remembers working in the malt syrup factory in Dresden. The syrup is for pregnant women, and it is fortified with vitamins. The POWs do everything they can to sneak spoonfuls of it. Billy sneaks a spoonful to Edgar Derby, who is outside. He bursts into tears after he tastes it.

Chapter Eight. Summary:

Howard Campbell, Jr., the American-turned-Nazi propagandist, visits the captives of Slaughterhouse Five. He wears an elaborate costume of his own design, a cross between cowboy outfit and a Nazi uniform. The POWs are tired and unhealthy, undernourished and overworked. Campbell offers them good eating if they join his Free American Corps. The Corps is Campbell's idea. Composed of Americans fighting for the Germans, they will be sent to fight on the Russian front. After the war, they will be repatriated through Switzerland. Campbell reasons that the Americans will have to fight the Soviet Union sooner or later, and they might as well get it out of the way. Edgar Derby rises for his finest moment. He denounces Campbell soundly, praises American forms of government, and speaks of the brotherhood between Russians and Americans. Air raid sirens sound,

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