Slaughterhouse-Five Study Guide

Slaughterhouse-Five Study Guide

Original title:
Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death
January 12th 1999 by Dial Press (first published 1969)
Dresden, 1945 (Germany) Tralfamadore
ISBN 0385333846 (ISBN13: 9780385333849)

It’s hard to be satirical about such tragic events as war, especially if it’s the World War II that took lives of millions of people. But Kurt Vonnegut managed to write a marvelous satirical novel that also has elements of fantasy and science fiction. 

“Slaughterhouse-Five” is a book about an American soldier named Billy Pilgrim. It is the last years of the WW II and he is captured by the Germans. Throughout the text, we discover Billy’s memories from his life before he joined the army, as well as from the beginning of his military career. 

At some point in his recollections, he travels to another planet. On the Tralfamadore planet he falls in love with an adult movie star and they share an immense passion. The next moment he is at a Nazi camp. Important scenes are mixed up with very trivial events, showing that in the cycle of time every tiny thing matters. 

Unlike many other literary works, “Slaughterhouse-Five” doesn’t finish with the war. The author goes deeper explaining what happens with the protagonist once he returns home and the postwar period starts. It shows that life isn’t fair and even cruel sometimes. But it still goes on and you can choose to get on board or stay on the sidetrack. 

Kurt Vonnegut is a legend himself, who made a name experimenting with fiction genres, eloquent chaos and courageous statements. The author actually lived through some of the events described in the book. That’s what makes it a bit autobiographical as well. He couldn’t have found a better way to present his narrative and more suitable time to publish it than in the 1970s.

The ill-fated Dresden firebombing finds its description in the book as the protagonist fights each minute and day to survive it. Kurt was one of the only 7 soldiers who were captured and survived through Dresden bombing. 

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