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Written for:
Senior Literature
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Slaughterhouse

By: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Slaughterhouse Five is a book written by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. that was written in 1969. It is a novel dealing, loosely, with World War II. The main character in this story is a simple man named Billy Pilgrim. Billy is an optometrist who married a woman because she was rich. He is not a greedy man at all. He is a normal man who was captured in a war and had a lot of misery in his life.

During the course of the book the reader will begin to understand that Billy is somewhat insane. Having lived through the traumatic experience of being captured in war, his life did not get any less complex. After he got home he decided to admit himself into a mental hospital for non-dangerous patients. Afterwards we got married. After his marriage his life is very sketchy at best. The layout of the book jumps the reader from past to present. It one moment you could be reading of him and his wife on a honeymoon and the next he finds himself lying in a bed surrounded by a war.

The interesting thing about this is that Billy realizes that he is jumping through time and just excepts things for how they are. Most of the book is spent in the frame of war. Here, Billy was a traveling minister in the American Army. When things got dangerous he became delirious and was dragged around by actual soldiers.

While he was in his present he was living out his life with his wife, son, and daughter. Things became very complex in Billy’s life when aliens from Tralfamadore abducted him. He spent approximately three years in an alien zoo while the planets funny-looking inhabitants watches him and his makeshift wife, who was a famous star named Montana Wildhack.

The very first dramatic scene of the book was when Billy began to realize he was skipping around in time. It started with him following soldiers around in WWII. He was very pessimistic about life and decided he did not want to go on. The men he was with would not let him stop walking. Billy was afraid because one man he was with was crazy and constantly talking about torturing people. Then, before he could realize it, he was with his wife. They had just had sex, which would result in their first child. Later that son would join the "Green Beret". Then moments later he was back in the war, doped up on morphine, looking for a place to use the bathroom.

Another notable scene is when Billy was captured. After being caught, he and another man he was with were ushered onto a train with dozens of other people. After days in the car he was taken out into the cold night and stripped. He and hundreds of other prisoners of war were sent to a shower room. After minutes of scalding hot water, he was put on another train headed for Dresden. Once there, he and the rest of the American soldiers were put in a Russian concentration camp and left in the hands of English soldiers. He would stay with these shoulders until Dresden was bombed and he got to return home to his fiancée.

The last memorable scene was near the end. Billy and his father in law were going to an optometry convention with many other optometrists. They were taking an airplane when it suddenly crashed. Billy knew it was going to happen but did not understand why or how he knew. Instead of raising a scene he got on. After the plane crashed he and the co-pilot were the only two left alive. As soon as his wife heard the news she rushed to the hospital. Here is the excerpt from the book describing what happened to his wife.

He was unconscious in the hospital in Vermont, after the airplane crashed on Sagebrush Mountain, and Valencia [Billy’s wife], having heard about the crash, was driving from Ileum to the hospital in the family Cadillac El Dorado Coupe de Ville. Valencia was hysterical, because she was told frankly that Billy might die, or that, if lived, he might be a vegetable.

Valencia adored Billy. She was crying and yelping so hard as she drove that she missed the correct turnoff from the throughway. She applied her power brakes, and a Mercedes slammed into her from behind. Nobody was hurt, thank God, because both drivers were wearing seat belts. Thank God, thank God. The Mercedes lost only a headlight. But the rear end of the Cadillac was a body-and-fender man’s wet dream. The trunk looked like the mouth of a village idiot who was explaining that he didn’t know anything about anything. The fenders shrugged. The bumper was high at port arms. "Reagan for President!" a sticker on the bumper said. The back window was veined with cracks. The exhaust system rested on the pavement.

…[Valencia] put her car in gear and crossed the median divider, leaving her exhaust system behind.

When she arrived to the hospital, people rushed to the windows to see what all the noise was. The Cadillac, with both mufflers gone, sounded like a heavy bomber coming in on a wing and a prayer. Valencia turned off the engine, but then she slumped against the steering wheel, and the horn brayed steadily. A doctor and a nurse ran out to find out what the trouble was. Poor Valencia was unconscious, overcome by carbon monoxide. She was heavily azure.

One hour later she was dead. So it goes.

This book took place during the time of World War II. It spans the entire war and years afterwards. The time frame is hard to tell but the book is based on this one mans entire life. The whole book is written from the perspective of the author who really was in WWII and really went to Dresden after being captured. Some of the events are based on real experiences and people he knew. Billy’s life is fictional, however, and only revolved around true events.

This was a really interesting book. It was very difficult to follow, but if you understood what was going on it was hard to stop reading. I think that Kurt Vonnegut is an acquired taste. His writing style in this book is very unique. If you could actually sit down and read, this would be a very entertaining novel.

Grade Recived:
91% A-

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