Skip over navigation

Slaughterhouse-Five

Kurt Vonnegut

Chapter 10

Chapter 9

Chapter 10, page 2

page 1 of 2

Summary

It is 1968. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. are both dead, assassinated within a month of one another. Body counts from the jungle war in Vietnam fill the evening news.

According to Billy, Tralfamadorians are more interested in Darwin than in Jesus Christ. They admire the Darwinian view that death serves a function and that “corpses are improvements.” A Kilgore Trout book, The Big Board, features aliens who capture an earthling and ask him about Darwin and golf.

Vonnegut tells us that he is not overjoyed if what Billy learned from the Tralfamadorians about eternal existence is true. Still, he is grateful for all the pleasant times experienced in his life. Vonnegut recalls one of those moments—his return to Dresden with his war buddy O’Hare. On the plane, the men eat salami sandwiches and drink white wine, and the author’s friend shows him a book that claims the world population will reach seven billion by the year 2000. “I suppose they will all want dignity,” Vonnegut remarks.

Billy is also back in Dresden, two days after the war, digging for bodies. Vonnegut and O’Hare are there too. After spending two nights in the stable, the prisoners are put to work excavating the ruins of Dresden, where they discover innumerable “corpse mines.” The bodies rot faster than they can be removed, making for a grisly cleanup job. One prisoner, a Maori, dies of the dry heaves. Eventually, as the pace of putrefaction outstrips the recovery efforts, the authorities adopt a new policy. The bodies are cremated where they lie in subterranean caverns. The soldiers use flamethrowers to carry out this grim task.

During the course of the excavations, while the men are still under German command, Edgar Derby is discovered with a teapot found in the ruins. He is arrested and convicted of plundering, then executed by firing squad.

Soon it is spring, and the Germans disappear to fight or flee the Russians. The war ends. Trees sprout leaves. Billy finds the horses and the green, coffin-shaped wagon. A bird says to him, “Poo-tee-weet?

More Help

Previous Next
A few observations on Slaughterhouse Five

by Akumeoi, November 04, 2012

Some things that are significant about this book (in my view) that were not mentioned in the SparkNote are this:
Billy Pilgrim's last name
A religious connection in the book
The colour of his feet again
As to the first, I think that since 'Billy' was obviously chosen with care, 'Pilgrim' was too. Pilgrim could refer to his otherworldly journey through time, although it's uncertain what he would be making a pilgrimage too - possibly death. Or, it could just be his journey through the war.
As to the religious impl... Read more

2 Comments

600 out of 634 people found this helpful

Where in the book is that

by mackeller, April 04, 2013

Do you know where in the book the christianity references are? The chapter might be more helpful because the pages are probably different.

An alternative explanation for Billy's "travels"

by almostpassingenglish, August 18, 2013

I think that BIlly Pilgrim's journeys through time could instead be a social commentary on Post-Traumatic Stress disorder. Billy isn't skipping through time, instead he's an old man sitting at his home, his daughter is taking care of him, and when he closes his eyes he suffers his wartime flashbacks and delusions about traveling through space in which he lives in a dream with elements from his life, like how Montana Wildhack was the Porn Star from the book store that Billy visited to see the Kilgore Trout novels. It also explains why the boo

2 Comments

37 out of 38 people found this helpful

See all 6 readers' notes   →

Follow Us