Summary Of Slaughterhouse-Five Essay, Research Paper
Summary of Slaughterhouse-Five
Slaughterhouse-Five tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, the main character, in chronological order, starting with Billy’s capture and imprisonment by Germany during World War II. This story is interspersed with incidents of Billy’s life on earth before and after the war, and from his fantasy voyage to the planet Tralfamadore. The plot is somewhat autobiographical, in reference to Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
This book has a lot of minor characters. For this reason, only Kurt
Vonnegut Jr., as the narrator, and Billy Pilgrim are fully developed. Some of the minor characters are also included in other novels.
The novel starts with Kurt Vonnegut Jr. as the narrator, telling about his frustrating desire to write a novel about the war. However, he is not able to remember much about the war. Vonnegut travels with Bernard V. O’Hare in
Dresden in 1967. While in a taxi, they see the slaughterhouse where they had
been kept as prisoners during World War II.
We are slowly introduced to Billy Pilgrim, who was born in Illium, New
York, in 1922. He is tall and weak, and not ambitious. He became rich partly by his good fortune an partly because he marries a rich woman. Billy was in the infantry in Europe in World War II as a chaplain’s assistant. He was taken
prisoner by the Germans, and kept in the slaughterhouse along with Vonnegut in
Dresden. He survived the Allied bombing along with Vonnegut only because the
meat locker where he was kept was underground.
Billy’s time-tripping, which refers to his visits to the planet Tralfamadore, starts shortly before his capture by the Germans in 1944. Billy begins to move back and forth through his life in a random sequence of events. During his lifetime, he is in both Illium, New York as an optometrist, and Tralfamadore, where he, among other things, mates with the pornography star Montana Wildhack. The Tralfamadorians finally explain his time travel in 1967, when he is kidnapped and taken to Tralfamadore. He understands that he is not really absent form earth at all, because Tralfamadorians see time as a dimension.
The plot is actually a little confusing and hard to follow because Billy Pilgrim lives two lives, one on Earth, and the other on Tralfamadore. Many times, the plot quickly switches times. For example, when Billy Pilgrim walks through a doorway in 1955, and comes out another door in 1941.
Billy was an optermetrist who married and had two children. After the
death of his wife, as well as his remarkable survival of a plane crash, Billy had brain surgery. His daughter was very concerned about him after the plane crash because he began writing letters to newspapers telling about his time traveling experiences, as well as Tralfamadore.
Billy feels that the Tralfamadorian philosophy is correct, and so he tries to tell everyone of it through the newspapers as well as through a radio talk-show. Some Tralfamadorian philosophy includes beliefs such as: “Everything that happens must happen. Nothing can be done to change it because each movement is structured in its own particular way.” “A human cannot pick and choose; he must live each moment, pleasant or unpleasant, as it comes along.”