Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five Book Review
In 1968, after recovering from an almost fatal accident and after his wife had died, Billy Pilgrim went to New York City and disclosed on an all-night radio program about having been kidnapped to the planet Tralfamadore. So he says.
In 1967 on his daughter’s wedding night, a flying saucer kidnapped him and took him to the planet Tralfamadore. He was displayed in a zoo and mated with a movie star Montana Wildhack. So it goes.
Billy Pilgrim was born in 1922 in Ilium, New York. He graduated from Ilium High School and attended the Ilium School of Optometry. So it goes.
In 1944, he went to South Carolina for maneuvers. He was an assistant chaplain, “powerless to harm his enemies or help his friends” Later that year, he went to Luxembourg to replace a deceased assistant chaplain just in time for a German attack. He survived but was behind the German lines. He met Roland Weary and they were captured by the Germans and sent to the extermination camp for Russian prisoners of war. So it goes.
In early 1968, Billy and other optometrists chartered a plane to go from Ilium to Montreal for a convention and the plane crashed on top of Sugarbush Mountain, Vermont. Only Billy and the copilot survived. So it goes.
His wife, having heard about the crash, drove to Vermont but had an accident on the way to the hospital. She was able to reach the hospital but died shortly after she arrived. So it goes.
He came back from the war in 1945 and returned to the Ilium School of Optometry. In his senior year, he was engaged to the daughter of the founder and owner of the school and suffered a nervous breakdown. So it goes.
In May 1945, the Germans shipped him and about a hundred American prisoners of war to Dresden as laborers and they lived in Slaughterhouse Five, where butchers used to slaughter cattle. About a month later American warplanes bombed the city and turned the streets into “the surface of the moon.” So it goes.
Through the time-shifts, Kurt Vonnegut simulates Billy Pilgrim’s experience and his delirium and the reader begins to understand a soul changed by war. Humorous, satirical, sad, and powerful. Slaughterhouse Five is a tale of the men brutalizing men and of an individual helpless against the current of history. The narrator describes Billy’s reactions toward his experiences rather than his feelings toward them. In the end, though Billy becomes a rich and successful optometrist in Ilium, he could only “get unstuck in time” through the Tralfamadoreans kidnapping him. So it goes.
Posted by Leonard Seet
Labels: American literature, antiwar novel, classic, Kurt Vonnegut, satire, Slaughterhouse Five, war novel
Leonard Seet is the author of the novels Magnolias in Paradise and Meditation On Space-Time. His short fiction have appeared in the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Banana Writers and Pilcrow & Dagger. Through his writings, he probes the dynamics of existence, including human consciousness, good and evil, and rationality and spirituality. He received the B.S. in Physics and B.S. and M.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an MBA from Georgetown University.