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Slaughterhouse-Five

Summary

What Does the Ending Mean?

Summary What Does the Ending Mean?

In the first chapter, Vonnegut writes in his own voice and foreshadows that the novel will end with the phrase “Poo-tee-weet?” as Billy Pilgrim realizes that World War II has ended, and the world is quiet enough for him to hear a bird tweeting. Vonnegut warns that there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre, and the bird’s chirp is as nonsensical as anything else anyone says after mass destruction. As Vonnegut explains how difficult it was to write Slaughterhouse-Five, he says: “Everything is supposed to be very quiet after a massacre, and it always is, except for the birds.” The birds, he writes, say “all there is to say about a massacre” when they trill. By sticking to his promise and ending the novel with this phrase, Vonnegut indicates that he feels there is nothing else to say about the Dresden bombing and the utter devastation of war. Because of Billy’s time-travel and the non-linear aspects of Slaughterhouse-Five‘s plot, this ending is not actually the chronological last scene in the novel, but it marks an emotional ending for Billy: his experience in the war will shape everything as he goes back to civilian life.