Michael Daniel “Slaughterhouse – Five” by Kurt Vonnegut 4/9/2007 “Slaughterhouse – Five” is a novel about the Dresden firebombing.

The main character is Billy Pilgrim, who has become unstuck in time. He spontaneously travels from old age to World War II to college, to death, to Tralfamadore, which is an alien planet where he is an exhibit in a zoo. The novel is written in a style that avoids suspense and drama because Vonnegut promised an old friend’s wife that he would not glamorize war. At the end of the novel Edgar Derby is executed by a firing squad when he gets caught stealing a teapot from Dresden after it is firebombed. The novel avoids suspense because Vonnegut usually tells you what will happen to a character within paragraphs of when they are introduced in the novel. For example, the first time we learn much about Lazzaro we learn that he loves revenge. He threatens Billy by saying, “Whenever the doorbell rings, have somebody else answer the door.” Immediately after saying that, in the next sentence, Vonnegut writes, “Billy Pilgrim says now this really is the way he is going to die, too.” When the character Derby is introduced some facts are given about him. One of the facts given was that, “Derby’s son would survive the war. Derby wouldn’t. That good body of his would be filled with holes by a firing squad in Dresden in sixty-eight days.” These are just two examples. Simply put, Vonnegut tries to avoid suspense whenever possible. When a character makes a moving speech Vonnegut does not write out the text of the speech, he simply assures us that the speech is moving. This is done when Billy Pilgrim makes a speech at his Lions Club. Vonnegut writes, “Billy opened his mouth, and out came a deep, resonant tone. His voice was a gorgeous instrument. It told jokes

which brought down the house…” It happens again when Vonnegut writes, “Derby spoke movingly of the American form of government, with freedom and justice and opportunities and fair play for all. He said there wasn’t a man there who wouldn’t gladly die for those ideals.” During this speech Vonnegut never directly quotes Derby. This style of writing has the effect of creating a drab feel to the novel. If not for time travel, aliens, the fourth dimension and Vonnegut’s sense of humor then this would have been a very boring book. Billy traveling through time and trying to wrap his mind around the idea that there is a dimension that he can not perceive was interesting to read about. The aliens who could see the fourth dimension had problems understanding how Billy could only see in three dimensions. This is shown when the guide at the zoo tried to explain it to the visitors and he had to use elaborate metaphors. For example, “his head was incased in a steel sphere which he could never take off. There was only one eyehole through which he could look, and welded to that eyehole were six feet of pipe. This was only the beginning of Billy’s miseries in the metaphor.” They go on to describe him as being bolted to a flatcar on train tracks so that his vision is as limited as possible, but “Whenever poor Billy saw through the pipe, he had so choice but to say to himself, “That’s life.”.” This shows that not only did Billy have problems comprehending four dimensions, the Tralfamadorians had problems comprehending three dimensions. The Tralfamadorians did have advice for Billy so that he would understand timetravel better. When Billy asked them what was happening when they abducted him they told him that he was trapped in the amber of the moment. When Billy time-traveled to the spaceship and asked where he was the Tralfamadorians told him that he was, “trapped in another blob of amber.”

The fourth dimension and the aliens were interesting, and in juxtaposition with the drabness of the part of the novel that was about war, the true point of the novel is that war is not sexy or exciting. As Vonnegut said in the first chapter, “There won’t be a part for Frank Sinatra or John Wayne.”