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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and everyone takes cover in a meat locker. The firebombing will not occur until tomorrow night; these sirens are only a false alarm. Billy dozes, and then leaps in time to an argument with his daughter Barbara. She is worrying about what should be done about Billy. She tells him that she feels like she could kill Kilgore Trout.

We move to Billy's first meeting with Trout, which happened in 1964. He is out driving when he recognizes Trout from the jackets of his books. Trout's books have never made money, so he works as a newspaper circulation man, bullying and terrorizing newspaper delivery boys. One of Trout's boys quits, and Billy offers to help Trout deliver the papers on the boy's route. He gives Trout a ride. Trout is overwhelmed by meeting an avid fan. He has only received one letter in the course of his career, and the letter was crazed. It was written by none other than Billy's friend from the mental ward, Elliot Rosewater. Billy invites Kilgore Trout to his anniversary party.

At the party, Trout is obnoxious, but the optometrists and their spouses are still enchanted by having an actual writer among them. A barbershop quartet sings "That Old Gang of Mine," and Billy is visibly disturbed. After giving Valencia her gift, he flees upstairs. Lying in bed, Billy remembers the bombing of Dresden.

We see the events as Billy remembers them. He and the other POWs, along with four of their guards, spend the night in the meat locker. The girls from the shower were being killed in a shallower shelter nearby. The POWs emerge at noon the next day into what looks like the surface of the moon. The guards gape at the destruction. They look like a silent film of a barbershop quartet.

We move to the Trafalmadorian Zoo. Montana Wildhack asked Billy to tell her a story. He tells her about the burnt logs, actually corpses. He tells her about the great monuments and buildings of the city turned into a flat, lunar surface.

We move to Dresden. Without food or water, the POWs have to march to find some if they are to survive. They make their way across the treacherous landscape, much of it still hot, bits of crumbling. They are attacked by American fighter planes. The end up in the suburbs, at an inn that has prepared to receive any survivors. The innkeeper lets the Americans sleep in the stable. He provides them with food and drink, and goes out to bid them goodnight as they go to bed.

Chapter Nine. Summary:

When Billy is in the hospital in Vermont, Valencia goes crazy with grief. Driving to the hospital, she gets in a terrible accident. She gears up her car and continues driving to the hospital, determined to get there even though she leaves her exhaust system behind. She pulls into the hospital driveway and falls unconscious from carbon monoxide poisoning. An hour later, she is dead.

Billy is oblivious, unconscious in his bed, dreaming and time traveling. In the bed next to him is Bertram Copeland Ruumford, an arrogant retired Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserve. He is a seventy-year-old Harvard professor and the official historian of the Air Force, and he is in superb physical condition. He has a twenty-three year-old high school dropout with an IQ of 103. He is an arrogant jingoist. Currently he is working on a history of the Air Corp in World War II. He has to write a section on the success of the Dresden bombing. Ruumfoord's wife Lily is scared of Billy, who mumbles deliriously. Ruumfoord is disgusted by him, because all he does in his sleep in quit or surrender.

Barbara comes to visit Billy. She is in a horrible state, drugged up so she can function after the recent tragedies. Billy cannot hear her. He is remembering an eye exam he gave to a retarded boy a decade ago. Then he leaps in time when he was sixteen years old. In the waiting room of a doctor's office, he sees an old man troubled by horrible gas. Billy opens his eyes and he is back in the hospital in Vermont. His son Robert, a decorated Green Beret, is there. Billy closes his eyes again.

He misses Valencia's funeral because he is till too sick. People assume that he is a vegetable, but actually he is thinking actively about Trafalmadorians and the lectures he will deliver about time and the permanence of moments. Overhearing Ruumford talk about Dresden, Billy finally speaks up and tells Ruumford that he was at Dresden. Ruumford ignores him, trying to convince himself and the doctors that Billy has Echonalia, a condition where the sufferer simply repeats what he hears.

Billy leaps in time to May of 1945, two days after the end of the war in Europe. In a coffin-shaped green wagon, Billy and five other Americans ride with loot from the suburbs of Dresden. They found the wagon, attached to two horses, and have been using it to carry things that they have taken. The homes have been abandoned because the Russians are coming, and the Americans have been looting. When they go to the slaughterhouse and the other five Americans loot among the ruins, Billy naps in the wagon. He has a cavalry pistol and a Luftwaffe ceremonial saber. He wakes; two Germans, a husband-and-wife pair of obstetricians, are angry about how the Americans have treated the horses. The horses' hooves are shattered, their mouths are bleeding from the bits, and they are extremely thirsty. Billy goes around to look at the horses, and he bursts into tears. It is the only time he cries in the whole war. Vonnegut reminds the reader of the epigraph at the start of the book, an excerpt from a Christmas carol that describes the baby Jesus as not crying. Billy cries very little.

He leaps in time back to the hospital in Vermont, where Ruumford is finally questioning Billy about Dresden. Barbara takes Billy home later that day. Billy is watched by a nurse; he is supposed to be under observation, but he escapes to New York City and gets a hotel room. He plans to tell the world about the Trafalmadorians and their concept of time. The next day, Billy goes into a bookstore that sells pornography, peep shows, and Kilgore Trout novels. Billy is only interested in Kilgore Trout novels. In one of the pornographic magazines, there is an article about the disappearance of porn star Montana Wildhack. Later, Billy sneaks onto a radio talk show by posing as a literary critic. The critics take turns discussing the novel, but when Billy gets his turn he talks about Trafalmadore. At the next commercial break, he is made to leave. When he goes back to his hotel room and lies down, he travels back in time to Trafalmadore. Montana is nursing their child. She wears a locket with a picture of her mother and the same prayer that Billy had on his office wall in Ilium.

Chapter Ten. Summary:

Vonnegut tells us that Robert Kennedy died last night. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated a month ago. Body counts are reported every night on the news as signs that the war in Vietnam is being won. Vonnegut's father died years ago of natural causes. He left Billy all of his guns, which rust. Billy claims that on Trafalmadore the aliens are more interested in Darwin than Jesus. Darwin, says Vonnegut, taught that death was the means to progress. Vonnegut recalls the pleasant trip he made to Dresden with his old war buddy, O'Hare. They were looking up facts about Dresden in a little book when O'Hare came across a passage on the exploding world population. By 2000, the book predicts, the world will have a population of 7 billion people. Vonnegut says that he supposes they will all want dignity.

Billy Pilgrim travels back in time to 1945, two days after the bombing of Dresden. German authorities find the POWs in the innkeeper's stable. Along with other POWs, they are brought back to Dresden to dig for bodies. Bodies are trapped in protected pockets under the rubble, and the POWs are put to work bringing them up. But after one of the workers is lowered into a pocket and dies of the dry heaves, the Germans settle on incinerating the bodies instead of retrieving them. During this time, Edgar Derby is caught with a teapot he took from the ruins. He is tried and executed by a firing squad.

Then the POWs were returned to the stable. The German soldiers went off to fight the Soviets. Spring comes, and one day in May the war is over. Billy and the other men go outside into the abandoned suburbs. They find a horse-drawn wagon, the wagon green and shaped like a coffin. The birds sing, "Po-tee-weet?"

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