Chapter 10

“Prisoners of war from many lands came together that morning at such and such a place in Dresden. It had been decreed that here was where the digging for bodies was to begin. So the digging began.

The superior said that the opening in the membrane should be enlarged, and that a ladder should be put in the hole, so that the bodies could be carried out. Thus began the first corpse mine in Dresden.

There were hundreds of corpse mines operating by and by. They didn’t smell bad at first, were wax museums. But then the bodies rotted and liquefied and the stink was like roses and mustard gas.”

Pg. 213-214

A shot to the heart, and Vonnegut is to blame. He puts painnn in my brainnn.

Ahem. Sorry. Back to the novel.

If you somehow haven’t already seen how Billy’s PTSD impacts his life, allow me to explain further. Back in chapter four, on page 73, Vonnegut writes, “She had a Princess telephone extension all her own–on her windowsill. Its tiny night light stared at Billy. Then it rang. Billy answered. There was a drunk on the other end. Billy could almost smell his breath–mustard gas and roses.”

Um, mind blow, anyone?

Interesting enough, in the first chapter where Vonnegut speaks in the first person, he writes, “I have this disease late at night sometimes, involving alcohol. I get drunk, and I drive my wife away with a breath like mustard gas and roses. And then, speaking gravely and elegantly into the telephone, I ask the telephone operators to connect me with this friend or that one, from whom I have not heard in years”(4).

That can’t be a coincidence, as most parts of great literature never are.

Image result for coincidence i think not gif

Chapter ten, like chapter one, is written in first person point-of-view from none other than our very own Kurt Vonnegut, but he also continues to tell stories of Billy Pilgrim. Mainly, Vonnegut focuses on Billy and the rest of the POW’s working in the corpse mines, which is disgustingly graphic, by the way.

Vonnegut, like Billy Pilgrim, seems to still suffer from PTSD. On page 211, Vonnegut, while speaking of his own experiences, writes, “We took a Hungarian Airlines plane from East Berlin… There were only six other passengers. They spoke many languages. They were having nice times, too. East Germany was down below, and the lights were on. I imagined dropping bombs on those lights, those villages and cities and towns.”

Like Pilgrim, Vonnegut cannot escape his tragic past. It lives with him. It is stuck in his shadow, in his memories that he must try to bury deep in the crevices of his mind. It is imprinted in his very existence. It is something that breaks my heart just as badly.

I want to say a few things to Vonnegut. Though he is dead, I hope he hears my words. I mean, according to the Tralfamadorians, Vonnegut is still alive and always will be.

First and foremost, thank you. Thank you for serving our country. Thank you for writing such an inspirational novel such as Slaughterhouse-Five. Thank you for showing the world something that needed to be seen. Thank you for exposing war for what it really is. It is not a heroic deed that must be done. It is not a fantasy. It is not fun. It is terrifying. It is fatal. It is traumatic. It is unnecessary. It is a killer, a murderer. Had war been a person, they would’ve been put on death row for killing more men than anyone else could possibly imagine. How ironic.

Secondly, I am so sorry. I said this to Billy Pilgrim, and I will say it to you, Vonnegut. You faced something no man should ever have to. You witnessed such monstrosities that would put a man in a mental institution. You survived one of the world’s worst bombings. You lost your life there, though not physically. I know there was a piece of you that never made it out of that war, that never made it out of that slaughterhouse. For that, I am so deeply sorry. Humanity ripped something so valuable away from you. Realizing this has made me realize that you are not the only one. There are many broken veterans out there, all shattered to pieces because of the horrors they had to endure. That saddens me.

This novel broke me. It tore everything apart– my beliefs, my mindset, my way of thinking. It was like a seismic earthquake that I fell victim to. This novel has changed me in ways I’ll never be able to fully comprehend, I think.

I’m lucky. I’m so beyond lucky to be safe-guarded from the nightmares of war. I will never have to fight a war against my will. Chances are, and cross my fingers, I will never live through world war. For that, I am grateful. Through this novel, I have seen what war can do. I have seen the vile creatures of men, their barbaric nature. It is something that I could never wish on my worst enemy. I pray that lawmakers gain some sense– enough sense to never plunge our countries into another abominable war. No one deserves it. No one should have to pay the price of their life.

This book has influenced me so much that I have started the journey of volunteering at the Northeast Louisiana Veteran’s Home. It was also here that my grandfather spent his last days. He, like Vonnegut and Pilgrim, served in WWII. He provided medical assistance to those in need. Rest easy.

A big thank you to my wonderful teacher, Dr. Ferguson. You have great taste in books, and you could not have picked a better one for me. This novel was just what I needed. I never doubted your decision for a minute.

Last but not least, thank you to all those who have read my blog(A.k.a. Dr. Ferguson). This has been a great experience. Though I was doubtful about this blog, I ended up falling in love with it. This has been the best unit I’ve done in English, and I’m eternally grateful to have been apart of such a life-changing journey.

The end.

Chapter 9 Pt. 2

“Disappointment is certain, and so I fall to my knees
I’ve been beat down by life with every breath I breathe…
I’m decomposing and I’m not even dead
My body’s breaking down until it is shed.”

This is from a song I recently found by the title of “Slaughterhouse-Five,” written by the band Bury Your Dead.

The title of the song, along with the lyric’s correlation to Billy Pilgrim, makes the song as eerie as it is sad.

I don’t think I will insert the song into this post, only because of how vulgar it is. If you’d like to listen to the song, do so at your risk! Personally, I love it, but my 6th grade science teacher also called me a “Satan-worshiper” for the music I like.

It’s an equal balance, I like to think.

Chapter 9

“I find it difficult to understand Englishmen or Americans who weep about enemy civilians who were killed but who have not shed a tear for our gallant crews lost in combat with a cruel enemy, wrote his friend General Eaker in part. I think it would have been well for Mr. Irving to have remembered, when he was drawing the frightful civilians killed at Dresden, that V-1’s and V-2’s were at the very time falling on England, killing civilian men, women, and children indiscriminately, as they were designed and launched to do.

I deeply regret that British and U.S. bombers killed 135,000 people in the attack on Dresden, but I remember who started the last war and I regret even more the loss of more than 5,000,000 Allied lives in the necessary effort to completely defeat and utterly destroy nazism.

That the bombing of Dresden was a great tragedy none can deny. That it was really a military necessity few, after reading this book, will believe. It was one of those terrible things that sometimes happen in war time, brought about by an unfortunate combination of circumstances. Those who approved it were neither wicked nor cruel, though it may well be that they were too remote from the harsh realities of war to understand fully the appalling destructive power of air bombardment in the spring of 1945.”


Almost everything about these quotes infuriates me beyond belief.

While in the hospital after his horrendous plane crash, Billy shares a room with a Harvard professor by the name of Bertram Rumfoord. Rumfoord, in the hospital for a broken leg that he acquired while skiing, asks his girlfriend to read him excerpts from a book by the title of The Destruction of Dresden. The quotes above are from this novel.

I could hardly stomach these excerpts. Everything about them repulsed me, and I had to stop reading at some point. There was such a tug on my heart that I was hurting physically. I could feel the ache in my chest. I know there are power-hungry men out there who believe war is the answer to all their problems, who believe ending lives will end their troubles. These men will murder others without another thought. They will destroy everything in their wake in order to achieve their goals, and they claim it is for the “good” of nations, but I cannot understand how ending millions of innocent lives is for the “good.” The very last line of the quotes, beginning with, ” Those who approved it were neither wicked nor cruel…” showcases the murderous ignorance of men with power. Make no mistake. These men did not understand because they did not want to understand. These men who approved the bombing of Dresden, the genocide of millions of innocents, did not take the time out of their day to even think about the mass destruction it would bring. These men hold little regard to any life that is not their own, and that is beyond sick.

Related image

Though the entirety of the excerpts are disgusting, there is another small portion that was gut-wrenching, to say the least, for me. The whole second paragraph of the excerpts is what got me the most, it seems. It almost felt like it was describing the loss of millions of lives as, and forgive my language, a pissing contest.

“Well, yeah, Germany lost 135,000 lives, but they started it!!! I’d say that it was more of a loss that 5,000,000 Allied people died. But, like I said, this wouldn’t have happened had Germany not started it! This was all their fault. Right? Right? MOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!!!!”

Give me a break. This isn’t a contest of who won more toys at the state fair. These are human beings, their lives, their memories, the impact they had on others. These are living, breathing humans who did not deserve to be caught in the cross fire of a power-struggle between selfish nations. Rather, they were living, breathing humans who did not deserve to be caught in the cross fire of a power-struggle between selfish nations.

This whole chapter, it seems, has a theme of how little life means to people in the novel. Though Billy is still very much alive in the hospital following the plane crash, he remains quiet for the better half of his visit. This leads Pilgrim’s roommate Rumfoord to make vile comments about Billy’s sentience.

“Professor Rumfoord said frightful things about Billy within Billy’s hearing, confident that Billy no longer had any brain at all. ‘Why don’t they just let him die?’ he asked Lily.

‘I don’t know,’ she said.

‘That’s not a human being anymore. Doctors are for human beings. They should turn him over to a veterinarian or a tree surgeon. They’d know what to do. Look at him! That’s life, according to the medical profession. Isn’t life wonderful?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Lily.”

Pg. 190

This grotesque quote reminds me of another part of the novel that is eerily similar. Back on page 97, while Billy is a prisoner a war, an Englishman studies Billy before exclaiming, “My God– what have they done to you, lad? That isn’t a man. It’s a broken kite.”

If I’m not mistaken, I mentioned this quote in my earlier posts, but here it is again. I make no apologies.

What kind of human are you if you have no regard for other lives?

On page 193, Vonnegut writes, “The staff thought Rumfoord for a hateful old man, conceited and cruel. He often said to them, in one way or another, that people who were weak deserved to die.”

It makes my stomach rot to think some people truly believe such an abominable thought.

Additionally, even after the war is over, after millions of lives were wrongfully ripped away from the world, society still seems to glorify war and death, painting it as anything other than atrocious.

Seen on page 200, Vonnegut writes, “But it was too early in the evening for programs that allowed people with peculiar opinions to speak out. It was only a little after eight o’clock, so all the shows were about silliness or murder. So it goes.”

Another sickening example of this glorification is when Billy visits a bookstore. There, he sees hundreds of book pertaining to “fucking and buggery and murder.”

“The news of the day, meanwhile, was being written in a ribbon of lights on a building to Billy’s back. The window reflected the news. It was about power and sports and anger and death. So it goes”(200).

The worst part of this all is that the tradition is continuing. We are a society numb to the horrors of war, of the death, destruction, and trauma it leaves on the world and the men forced to live through and witness it.

When does it end? When will the media stop glorifying death? When will society sit down and realize how awful war is? When will lawmakers stop pushing the agenda that war and violence is the only answer? When will men stop believing It’s a noble cause to kill undeserving men, women, and children?

When will we do better?

Chapter 8

“Unexpectedly, Billy Pilgrim found himself upset by the song and the occasion. He had never had an old gang, old sweethearts and pals, but he missed one anyway, as the quartet made slow, agonized experiments with chords–chords intentionally sour, sourer still, unbearably sour, and then a chord that was suffocatingly sweet, and then some sour ones again. Billy had powerful psychosomatic responses to the changing chords. His mouth filled with the taste of lemonade, and his face became grotesque, as though he really were being stretched on the torture engine called the rack

There was a fire storm out there. Dresden was one big flame. The one flame ate everything organic, everything that would burn.

‘Dresden was destroyed on the night of February 13, 1945,’ Billy Pilgrim began. ‘We came out of our shelter the next day.’ He told Montana about the four guards who, in their astonishment and grief, resembled a barbershop quartet. He told her about the stockyards with all the fenceposts gone, with roofs and windows gone–told her about seeing little logs lying around. There were people who had been caught in the fire storm. So it goes.”

Pg.172-173, 178-179

I’m tired of having my heart broken, Vonnegut. Do you hear me? I’m tired.

On the day of their anniversary, Billy and Valencia celebrate by throwing a party at their house. While a quartet sings, Billy becomes repulsed by them, but he is unable to understand why. It is after this that Billy is thrown back to the aftermath of the bombing in Dresden. He remembers the faces of the guards who saw thousands of lifeless, charred corpses. They were faces that resembled a barbershop quartet.

Sometimes I ponder what Hell is. Hell is not a burning fiery pit, some say. I must agree with them. Rather, Hell is your worst, most traumatizing memory relived for eternity. If that is the case, then Billy is already in Hell.

Every day, no matter how cheerful that day is supposed to be, ends with Billy having to relive the trauma he faced in the war. It ends with Billy being thrown into the torturous pits of his own memories.

I’ve come to see a small glimpse of what PTSD is like, and I can fully say that I was what was wrong with the majority of people today. I didn’t understand PSTD, nor did I even want to. I heard the words “War,” “Death,” “PSTD,” “Trauma,” and I didn’t bat an eyelash. I was numb to the reality of it all. My heart couldn’t connect to those of the men and women fighting wars, laying down their lives to protect mine. I saw movies such as American Sniper, and I couldn’t process any of it then. I’m not the only one. Many kids today have no compassion for veterans or those dealing with PTSD. These sufferings have been so glossed over to the point of apathy in the hearts of millions. This book has been the biggest destabilization for me in that sense.

I’ve already finished the book, and I can tell you that chapter nine is the most heartbreaking of them all. I could barely get through it without crying. I’m excited to share it with you guys, so I’ll see you all next time!

Chapter 7

“Billy had a fractured skull, but he was still conscious. He didn’t know where he was. His lips were working, and one of the golliwogs put his ear close to them to hear what might be his dying words.

Billy thought the golliwog had something to do with Word War Two, and he whispered to him his address: ‘Schlachthof-fünf.'”

Pg. 156
“All the places I’ve been and things I’ve seen
A million stories that made up a million shattered dreams
The faces of people I’ll never see again
And I can’t seem to find my way home.”

While I was reading the quote from the novel, this song was the only thing I could think of. Now, I know I’ve already used a Five Finger Death Punch song in a previous chapter, but I’m going to use another one.

Five Finger Death Punch, no matter how silly the name of the band may sound, is a phenomenal and highly influential band. They have a strong pro-American, anti-war rhetoric that I find perfect for the theme of Slaughterhouse-Five and the trauma Billy faces, as the band touches on the side effects of war and the PTSD it leaves men with.

The specific lyrics I quoted under the video and the quote from the novel tie together perfectly to hit me like a vehicle going 93 miles per hour, especially the last line. I feel Billy can relate to it more than anything else.

Home from the war, Billy is still not truly home. Following a plane crash that kills every one, including his father-in-law, Billy and the co-pilot are the sole survivors of this horrific accident. Billy and the co-pilot are discovered by mountain hikers, to which Billy tells them his address is Slaughterhouse-Five. That was only his address while a prisoner of war in Dresden.

Thank you for shattering my heart into hundreds of little pieces, Vonnegut. Very classy. I’m also looking at you, Dr. Ferguson, since you’re the one who assigned this novel to me. I won’t attempt to put my heart back together anymore since I know Vonnegut will find another way to shatter it.

I wonder what it is like to be Billy, to live a nightmare that is impossible to escape. I wonder how painful it is to never be able to escape your past. I wonder how painful it is to relive it every day, for every waking moment to be filled with thoughts of the most sickening part of your life.

The weirdest part of it all is that I’ve never wanted to speak to a character before now. I’ve never wanted a character to come to life so I could say something to them.

To Billy Pilgrim, though, I want to say, “I’m so sorry for what they’ve done.”

Thrown into a war he never asked for, Billy is left scarred with the crippling memories of it. In fact, it is the war that kills Billy, both metaphorically and physically. Billy loses a large piece of himself in the war. His will to live, his love of life, is left behind in a war that took everything from him and stripped him of his humanity. It is also in the war that Billy meets a man that vows to have him killed after WWII is over. That man holds his promise to be true, and Billy is assassinated years after he has returned home.

I’m so sorry, Billy Pilgrim. Truly. You did not deserve it.

Chapter 6

“They saw the dead hobo again. He was frozen stiff in the weeds beside the track. He was in a fetal position, trying even in death to nestle like a spoon with others. There were no others now. He was nestling with thin air and cinders. Somebody had taken his boots. His bare feet were blue and ivory. It was all right, somehow, his being dead. So it goes.”

Pg. 148

I’ll be majoring in forensics over the course of my college years, and I know my career choice will put me face-to-face with corpses, death, and unfairness. It’s a decision that I decided for myself, but Billy did not choose that life. He did not choose to be thrown into war. He did not choose to witness such monstrosities. He never asked to watch his comrades be murdered, their rotting bodies left to the elements with no one to care about their lifelessness. He never asked to be starved, to be treated as if he wasn’t even human.

“Heart-breaking” seems to a word that comes to my mind a lot while reading this book.

Back in WWII, Billy and the other prisoners of war are being transported to Dresden, where they will spend their time in “Schlachthof-fünf.” Slaughterhouse-Five. Billy and the rest are told that they “needn’t worry about bombs…Dresden is an open city”(146). It’s numbly ironic.

I know the character of Billy Pilgrim is a parallel to the author Kurt Vonnegut, so reading the novel is like following the actual events of WWII. It’s like seeing everything first hand. It’s visualizing the dead bodies, blood, torture, mistreatment and all the other horrific cards that are dealt in war. It’s made me more grateful than anyone could ever know. I pray I never have to live through a war, and I pray I never have to send my son off to one.

Not too much happened this chapter. It was a fairly short chapter, too! I’m going to move onto chapter seven now! I’ll keep y’all updated. See you next post!

Chapter 5

“She upset Billy simply by being his mother. She made him feel embarrassed and ungrateful and weak because she had gone to so much trouble to give him life, and to keep that life going, and Billy didn’t really like life at all.”

Pg. 102

Nothing could have prepared me for the emotions I got from this quote. It was as if I could feel the pain from Billy– the disdain for the world for making him go through what he had to, the contradictory love and dislike towards his mother for giving him a life he no longer cares to live. It’s heart-shattering.

I’m only halfway through this masterpiece of a novel, and I’ve never been more profoundly moved by a book before this one. I’ve read many works, all from a wide array of genres– young adult, fiction, sci-fi, non-fiction, and many more. I’ve loved many of these novels, too– Blood Meridian(Thanks, Mr. Ferguson), A Prayer for Owen Meany(And thank you, Dr. Ferguson), The Mortal Instruments series, Red Queen series, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and more. I’ve cried to all the books I’ve listed, as these books have all shaken me to the core, but Slaughterhouse-Five is different. I’ve teared up over Vonnegut’s novel, but I have yet to shed a full tear. However, this book is cutting me in ways no other book has. It’s leaving its mark in my heart and soul. It’s scarring me with horrifying realizations. It’s doing what no other book has yet to do– It’s influencing me.

Enough with the heartfelt insight. Let’s get onto the actual chapter.

This chapter jumps around considerably, as Billy is still time-traveling. In this chapter, I’m finally able to see Billy in his Tralfamadorian zoo habitat. He is constantly kept naked, and he is watched with fascination by the inhabitants of Tralfamadore. We also see Billy with his wife and again as a prisoner of war.

Now, I know I’ve already talked about Billy Pilgrim’s delusion of Tralfamadorians and how they are a result of his PTSD from the war. I know you guys are probably tired of reading about it, but does that mean I’m going to stop talking about it? Absolutely not. Now, if you still aren’t convinced with my Tralfamadorian-PTSD hypothesis, I have even more evidence for you. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.

If you guys recall from my last post, I started the blog entree with a quote from page… wait, let me check real quick… 77 that shows the Tralfamadorians stating “Why you?… Why anything?” Here comes the evidence for my theory. On page 91, after Billy witnesses an altercation between a prisoner of war and a Russian guard, something interesting happens.

“‘Why me?’ he asked the guard.

The guard shoved him back into ranks. ‘Vy you? Vy anybody?’ he said.”

Are you guys seeing the correlation? No? Yeah, me neither.

I don’t really have a huge point that I want to spend this entire blog post talking about. Instead, I have little points that I’m going to jump around to, one being a quote from page 97. An Englishman, while examining Billy, states, “My God–what have they done to you, lad? This isn’t a man. It’s a broken kite.”

The transition from being referred to as a man, a human being that cries, laughs, loves, and hates, to being referred to as “It” is gravely upsetting for me. I’ve grown to love Billy Pilgrim, and I’ve become heavily invested in the story that is his life. To hear Billy being spoken to almost as if he’s a shattered vase, “broken,” is stomach-clenching. It reminds me of a song by a heavy metal band by the name of Five Finger Death Punch that touches on the topic of how veterans are treated in society.

Another important point I want to touch on is a quote by Billy on page 116 that writes, “I myself have seen the bodies of schoolgirls who were boiled alive in a water tower by my countrymen.”

It’s hard. To read this is extremely hard. To stomach the words is almost impossible. Being a schoolgirl myself, I’ve never imagined myself being boiled alive for no reason. Imagine it, though. Take a second to just imagine it, to imagine the pain.

This too, like the quote that came on page 97, reminds me of one of my favorite songs. Being an anti-war song, along with the background to the song, it ties perfectly with this quote. After hearing about the bombing in Warrington, England, that claimed the lives of two young boys by the names of Johnathan Ball and Tim Parry, The Cranberries wrote song that influenced the hearts of many, including mine. The lyrics are haunting. The video is chilling. The song moves mountains. It breaks hearts.

The theme continues. Vonnegut wants us to see how people are treated in war. He wants us to see what they have to experience. He wants us to sympathize. He wants us to realize how God awful war is, how it claims the lives and sanity of millions. And, Lord, does Vonnegut do a marvelous job at that. Onto chapter six. I’ll talk to you guys later!

Chapter 4

Billy licked his lips, thought a while, inquired at last: “Why me?”

“That is a very Earthling question to ask, Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber?”

“Yes.” Billy, in fact, had a paperweight in his office which was a blob of polished amber with three lady-bugs embedded in it.

“Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why.”

Pg. 77

In my “Chapter 2” blog post, I talked about the Tralfamadorians being a figment of Billy Pilgrim’s imagination– a delusion and series of hallucinations brought on by his PTSD. This quote only furthers my notion.

The Tralfamadorians, according to this quote, don’t believe in free will. In fact, at the very end of the chapter, it’s shown that the Tralfamadorians had never previously heard of free will before studying Earth when Vonnegut writes, “‘If I hadn’t spent so much time studying Earthlings,’ said the Tralfamadorian, ‘I wouldn’t have any idea what was meant by ‘free will.’ I’ve visited thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied reports on one hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will”'(86).

This absence of free will ties into the logic behind “So it goes.” According to the Tralfamadorians, everything is sealed in fate, like bugs sealed in amber. Death is no exception. How men are set to die cannot be altered. Therefore, it is senseless to obsess over death because everything simple is. Death is inevitable, and there is nothing that can be done to undermine fate’s natural course. So it goes.

Chapter 4 is out of this world. I mean this quite literally. After his daughter’s wedding, Billy Pilgrim is abducted by the infamous Tralfamadorians. As he is being transported back to Tralfamadore, along with pieces of human furniture for his “artificial habitat in a zoo on Tralfamadore,” Billy becomes unstuck in time once again.

He is back as a prisoner of war. Billy, along with the other prisoners of war, are taken to a roadside prison where they are ordered to strip and bathe. What’s interesting in this chapter is a particular quote from page 83 which states, “Billy did as he was told, took off his clothes. That was the first thing they told him to do on Tralfamadore, too.”

Now, if you still want to believe that Billy Pilgrim was actually abducted by aliens, that’s fine. To me, however, more evidence, such as the quote from page 83, amplifies the idea that Billy Pilgrim’s inability to cope with the traumatic events he faced in WWII is manifesting itself in the form of the hallucinations of Tralfamadorians. These Tralfamadorians, coincidentally, order Billy to do the same humiliating actions he was forced to do in the war. Also stated in my “Chapter 2” blog and also written above, the Tralfamadorians give philosophical advice pertaining to how to deal with death and the disheartening hands of fate, all of which Billy struggled with while in combat.

Line by line, word by word, I am developing a strange fixation for this novel. So, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to read chapter five of Slaughterhouse-Five. I’ll get back to you all in a while.

Chapter 3

“Also on the table were controls for the electric blanket, and a switch to turn on a gentle vibrator which was bolted to the springs of the box mattress…Billy took off his tri-focals and his coat and his neck-tie and his shoes, and he closed the venetian blinds and then the drapes, and he lay down on the outside of the coverlet. But sleep would not come. Tears came instead. They seeped. Billy turned on the Magic Fingers, and he was jiggled as he wept.”

Pg. 62

As I read this quote, tight knots formed in my stomach. My vision blurred. I was tearing up. For the first time, it dawned on me just how much war could ruin men. Truth be told that I, like the audience Vonnegut was writing for, was numb against the tragedies of war. I never thought about it. I never had to. Being a female and someone who was never interested in enlisting in the military, the thoughts never crossed my mind. Reading this chapter, though, was like being hit by a car, and I can fully say I’ve never been so moved so early on in a novel like I am with Slaughterhouse-Five.

Chapter 3, for me, is a tear-jerker. Billy Pilgrim is still “unstuck” in time, and I’m thrown back in time with him as he visualizes being taken a prisoner of war. It’s in this chapter that I’m able to realize just how horrendous war is– and just how it affects those involved in it. The chapter begins with Billy being taken prisoner by German enemies along with a man by the name of Ronald Weary. Weary’s combat boots are stripped from him and replaced with makeshift clogs. Later on in the chapter, the audience sees how even this small action can cause suffering when Vonnegut writes, “Weary’s eyes were tearful also. Weary was crying because of the horrible pains in his feet. The hinged clogs were transforming his feet into blood puddings”(64). Billy jumps in time once again, and he is back in modern time. Here, he hears a siren in the distance. It obvious that Billy’s PTSD has a suffocating grip on his life as Vonnegut writes, “A siren went off, scared the hell out of him. He was expecting World War Three at any time”(57). Back in the war, Billy is introduced to another prisoner of war, a colonel suffering from double pneumonia. Billy recalls the colonel was “dying and dying, drowning where he stood.” The colonel was left to suffer and drown from within, and he eventually died.

The last quote from this chapter that twisted my insides came from another prisoner of war, a former hobo, according to Billy. The hobo states to Billy, “I been hungrier than this. I been in worse places than this. This ain’t so bad”(68). Being taken a prisoner of war, I imagine, is nightmarish. I can only imagine what else the hobo has seen that could be worse, but I’m not surprised he’s seen more hellish situations.

Some parts of this chapter, like the ones I mentioned above, are sickening to read. I hear sirens around town constantly, with Monroe having the highest crime rates per capita, but it doesn’t phase me in the slightest. I love hearing fireworks around the holidays. I can hear gunshots and not flinch. Before this chapter, it never really hit me how all these sounds can send veterans with PTSD into a nervous wreck, thinking their life will turn to hell again. It’s depressing to realize. It’s depressing to read. It hurts to realize how depressing it must be to live.

Chapter 2

“When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simple shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is ‘So it goes.'”

Pg. 27

So it goes.

This line appears fifteen times in this chapter. Granted, I may have miscounted, but you understand where I’m coming from. Right? This line is continuously seen through the first chapter as well, so it obviously has importance, though I couldn’t figure out what that importance was. Now I understand, all thanks to Vonnegut directly explaining it to me. After reading this quote from the novel, I went back to every time the line is mentioned, and I found my suspicions to be correct. “So it goes” is said directly following any mentioning of death.

Whether the death is intentional or accidental, horrendous or gentle, it is all equalized in the aspect that death is inescapable, and life will go on. Because the deceased had a life of fine moments, it is pointless to dwell on that one terrible moment of their death. Being an anti-war novel, Vonnegut did this on purpose to send a paralyzing message about war. Vonnegut takes something as haunting as death and makes it completely meaningless with a simple phrase, just as war has made death meaningless by taking the lives of millions with no repercussions. With death being the only thing he is surrounded by, the main character of Billy Pilgrim shrugs it off and accepts the fact that death is unavoidable, just as the Tralfamadorians have taught him to do.

In Chapter Two, Vonnegut introduces the novel’s main character, Mr. Billy Pilgrim. Right off the bat, we are told Billy Pilgrim has become “unstuck in time.” Jumping from one point in his life to another, I am transported in time with Billy through his life events, including being drafted into WWII and surviving the bombing of Dresden, Germany.

Wait. Where have I heard this before? Are you telling me this is a semi-autobiographical novel of Kurt Vonnegut? Vonnegut, you sneaky fly.

Following surviving the bombing at Dresden and a plane crash that killed his companions, suffering from a “mild nervous collapse,” and losing his wife “accidentally” to carbon-monoxide poisoning, Billy Pilgrim writes to a news organization about being abducted by an alien race called Tralfamadorians. This then begs the question: Did Billy really get abducted by aliens?

Now, hear me out on this. I believe in aliens. I even have a space and UFO tattoo! However, I do not believe aliens were responsible for abducting Billy Pilgrim and putting him in a nude petting zoo(That really did happen, according to Billy). It’s extremely likely that Billy Pilgrim suffers from some form of PTSD. After seeing the aftermath of the Dresden firestorm and witnessing multiple deaths of war comrades, friends, and loved ones, it’s not hard to imagine why Pilgrim would develop PTSD. Hallucinations and delusions are among the common symptoms of this affliction, especially among war veterans. The Tralfamadorians wouldn’t be the first hallucination Billy has had. Written on page 49 during Billy’s time behind enemy lines, “Billy Pilgrim was having a delightful hallucination.”

The Tralfamadorians, then, are a delusion onset by Pilgrim’s PTSD that help Billy to cope with the immeasurable death around him.

Aliens are totally real, though.