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Slaughterhouse-Five

Main Ideas

Setting

Main Ideas Setting

Slaughterhouse-Five has several settings: Germany and Luxembourg during World War II, Ilium, New York during the post-war period, and Tralfamadore, the alien planet where Billy is kept in a zoo. The most significant setting in the novel seems to be the German city of Dresden, which haunts Billy the rest of his life. After the bombing that kills thousands of civilians, the cratered Dresden looks like curves on “the face of the moon,” adding a surreal quality to this setting. Billy can distance himself from the destruction in Dresden by believing that it is not a real city on Earth, but rather another setting in outer space completely removed from his own world. Billy is prone to dissociate from trauma, and this tendency explains why he believes he was abducted by aliens and forced to live on the planet Tralfamadore: he needs to “reinvent [his] universe” in order to make sense of his life after the war, and imagining a place in which death is normal helps Billy cope with the overwhelming number of deaths he witnessed in Dresden.