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Slaughterhouse-Five

Quotes

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 1

It is so short and jumbled and jangled, Sam, because there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre. Everybody is supposed to be dead, to never say anything or want anything ever again. Everything is supposed to be very quiet after a massacre, and it always is, except for the birds. And what do the birds say? All there is to say about a massacre, things like “Poo-tee-weet?”

Kurt Vonnegut, as the narrator, addresses his publisher Seymour (“Sam”) Lawrence directly in this passage from Chapter 1. He seems to apologize for delivering such a short, fragmented manuscript. The irony of this passage is that if there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre, then writing a book about one, no matter how short, is a major accomplishment. Perhaps like birdsong, the book merely serves as a simple communication demonstrating that life still exists in a devastated world. The bird’s inquisitive refrain returns in the very last line of the novel, leaving us with the unanswered question of what life is like in the aftermath of war—life’s most devastating enemy.