The next morning, Paul Lazzaro appears at the hospital, knocked unconscious after trying to steal from an Englishman. A German major reads aloud a monograph on the pathetic state of American soldiers by Howard W. Campbell, Jr., an American playwright turned Nazi propagandist.

Billy falls asleep and wakes up in 1968, back at work on his letter -to the paper. His daughter, Barbara, scolds him, notices that it is cold in the house, and leaves to call the oil-burner man after putting Billy to bed. Lying under his electric blanket, Billy travels to Tralfamadore, just as an actress named Montana Wildhack arrives and goes into hysterics. She has been brought to Tralfamadore to be Billy’s mate. Eventually she grows to trust him, and soon they are sleeping together.

Billy wakes up in 1968, having just had a wet dream about Montana Wildhack. The next day, Billy examines a boy whose father has been killed in Vietnam. He shares Tralfamadorian insights with the boy, whose mother realizes that Billy is insane. Billy’s daughter is called to take him home.


As he begins his stay with the Tralfamadorians, Billy learns about their concept of time and their philosophy of acceptance. If there is no free will, and if each moment is structured so that it can only occur the way it occurs, then it makes sense to accept things as they come. Reconciliation to the world, or the “So it goes” attitude, comes from visiting all the moments of one’s life innumerable times. The moment of death is no more permanent than any other moment. This realization comes as a great comfort to Billy, given the horrible killing he has witnessed. Since it offers him immediate comfort, he makes a willed decision to share his insights with the world when the time is ripe. By offering the Tralfamadorian theories to the public, Billy figuratively extends his optometry practice beyond typical lenses and spectacles, correcting humankind’s understanding of death and will. Billy’s desire to share his story with the public, however, is a matter of personal will. Ironically, Billy concertedly exercises his free will in order to teach others that free will is futile.

Despite this irony, Billy is yet unaware that there is danger in a world without free will, especially when no one claims responsibility for his or her actions. When a German guard knocks down an American prisoner and the baffled man asks, “Why me?” the German shoots back, “Vy you? Vy anybody?” This reply echoes the Tralfamadorian answer to the same question from Billy when he is abducted. In the veterans’ hospital, Rosewater and Billy brood fatalistically about the state of their universe, and Kilgore Trout’s science fiction provides a welcome escape.

The lighthearted Tralfamadorian touches in Slaughterhouse-Five, such as the aliens’ resemblance to toilet plungers or the ridiculous showroom in which they house Billy, temper the devastation of the war scenes. But by putting the aliens’ philosophy in the mouth of the brutal German soldier, Vonnegut also uses science fiction to caution us about the consequences of escapism.