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... А Б В Г Д Е Ж З И К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Э Ю Я

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American Literature books summary

their shine you could see Adam and Eve. Though Billy has never heard the

corporal's claim, looking into the boots now he sees Adam and Eve and loves

them for their innocence, vulnerability, and beauty. A blond fifteen-year-

old boy helps Billy to his feet; he looks as beautiful and innocent as Eve.

In the distance, shots sound out as the two scouts are killed. Waiting in

ambush, they were found and shot in the backs of their heads.

The Germans take Weary's things, including the pornographic picture, which

the two old men grin about, and Weary's boots. The fifteen-year old gets

Weary's boots, and Weary gets the boy's clogs. Weary and Billy are made to

march a long distance to a cottage where American POWs are being detained.

The soldiers there say nothing. Billy falls asleep, his head on the

shoulder of a Jewish chaplain.

Billy leaps in time to 1967, although it takes him a while to figure out

the date. He is giving an eye exam in his office in Ilium. His car, visible

outside his window, has conservative stickers on the bumper; the stickers

were gifts from his father-in-law.

He leaps back to the war. A German is kicking his feet, telling him to wake

up. The Americans are assembled outside for photographs. The photographer

takes pictures of Billy's and Weary's feet as evidence of how poorly

equipped the American troops are. They stage photos of Billy being

captured. Billy then returns to 1967, driving to the Lion's club. He drives

through a black ghetto, an area recovering from recent riots and fires. He

largely ignores what he sees there. At the Lion's club, a marine major

talks about the need to continue the fight in Vietnam. He advocates bombing

North Vietnam into the Stone Age, if necessary, and Billy does not think of

the horror of bombing, which he has witnessed himself. He is simply having

lunch. The narrator mentions that he has a prayer on the wall of his

office: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

courage to change the things I can, and wisdom always to tell the


The narrator tells us that Billy cannot change past, present, or future.

After lunch, Billy goes home. He is a wealthy man now, with a son in the

Green Berets and a daughter about to get married; he also is seized

occasionally by sudden and inexplicable bouts of weeping. During one of

these spells, he closes his eyes and finds himself back in World War II. He

is marching with an ever-growing line of Americans making their way through

Luxembourg. They cross into Germany, being filmed by the Germans who want a

record of their great victory. Weary's feet are sore and bloody from

marching on the German boy's clogs. The Americans are sorted by rank, and a

colonel tries to talk with Billy. The colonel is dying; he tries to be

chummy with Billy. He has always wanted to be called "Wild Bob" by his men.

He dreams of having a reunion of his men in his hometown of Cody, Wyoming.

He invites Billy and the other men to come. Vonnegut mentions that he and

Bernard O'Hare were there when the colonel gave his invitation. All of the

POWs are put into train cars. The train does not leave for two days; during

that time Wild Bob dies. The boxcars are so crowded that to sleep the men

have to take turns lying down. When the train finally begins its trek

deeper into Germany, Billy jumps through time again. It is 1967, and he is

about to be kidnapped for the first time by the Trafalmadorians.

Chapter Four. Summary:

In 1967, on his daughter's wedding night, Billy cannot sleep. Because he is

unstuck in time, he knows that he will soon be kidnapped by a

Trafalmadorian flying saucer. He kills time unproductively in the meantime.

He watches a war movie, and because he is unstuck in time the movie goes

forward and then backward. He goes out to meet the ship, and he is taken as

planned. As the ship shoots out into space, Billy is jarred back to 1944.

In the boxcar, none of the men want Billy to sleep next to them because he

yells and thrashes in his sleep. He is forced to sleep while standing. In

another car, Weary dies of gangrene in his feet. As he slowly dies over the

course of days, he tells people again and again about the Three Musketeers.

He also asks that someone get revenge for him on the man who caused his

death. He blames Billy Pilgrim, of course.

The train finally arrives at a camp, and Billy and the other men are pushed

and prodded along. The camp is full of dying Russian POWs. At points,

Vonnegut likens the Russians' faces to radium dials. The Americans are all

given coats; Billy's is too small. They go into a delousing station, where

all of the men strip naked. Billy has one of the worst bodies there; he is

skinny and weak, and a German soldier comments on that fact. We are

introduced briefly to Edgar Derby and Paul Lazarro. Derby is the oldest POW

there, a man who pulled strings to get into the army. He is a high school

teacher from Indianapolis, and he is physically sturdy despite his forty-

four years of age. He will be shot after the Dresden bombing for trying to

steal a teapot.

Paul Lazarro is a car thief from Illinois. His body is even weaker and

less healthy than Billy's. He was in Roland Weary's boxcar, and he vowed

solemnly to Weary that he would find and kill Billy Pilgrim. When the

scalding water turns on, Billy leaps back to his infancy. His mother has

just finished giving him a bath. He then leaps forward to a Sunday game of

golf, played with three other optometrists. Then, he leaps in time to the

space ship, on his first trip to Trafalmadore. He talks with one of his

captors about time, and he says that the Trafalmadorians sound like they do

not believe in free will. The alien replies that in all of the inhabited

planets of the galaxy, Earth is the only one whose people believe in the

concept of free will.

Chapter Five. Summary:

En route to Trafalmadore, Billy asks for something to read. The only human

novel is Valley of the Dolls, and when Billy asks for a Trafalmadorian

novel, he learns that the aliens' novels are slim, sleek volumes. Because

they have a different concept of time, Trafalmadorians have novels arranged

by juxtaposition of marvelous moments. The books have no cause or effect or

chronology; their beauty is in the arrangement of events meant to be read

simultaneously. Billy jumps in time to a visit to the Grand Canyon taken

when he was twelve years old. He is terrified of the canyon. His mother

touches him and he wets his pants. He jumps forward in time just ten days,

to later in the same vacation. He is visiting Carlsbad Caverns. The ranger

turns the lights off, so that the tourists can experience total darkness.

But Billy sees a light nearby: the radium dial of his father's watch.

Billy jumps back to the war. The Germans think Billy is one of the funniest

creatures they've seen in all of the war. His coat is preposterously small,

and on his already awkward body it looks ridiculous. The Americans give

their names and serial numbers so that they can be reported to the Red

Cross, and then they are marched to sheds occupied by middle-aged British

POWs. The British welcome them with singing. These British POWs are

officers, some of the first Brits taken prisoner in the war. They have been

prisoners for four years. Due to a clerical error early in the war, the Red

Cross shipped them an incredible surplus of food, which they have hoarded

cleverly. Consequently, they are some of the best-fed people in Europe.

Their German captors adore them.

To prepare for their American guests, the Brits have cleaned and set out

party favors. Candles and soap, supplied by the Germans, are plentiful: the

British do not know that these items are made from the bodies of Holocaust

victims. They have prepared a huge dinner and a dramatic adaptation of

Cinderella. Billy is so unhinged that his laughter at the performance

becomes hysterical shrieking, and he is taken to the hospital and doped up

on morphine. Edgar Derby watches over him, reading The Red Badge of

Courage. He leaps in time to the mental ward where he recovered in 1948.

In the mental ward, Billy's bed is next to the bed of Elliot Rosewater.

Like Billy, he has little love for life, in part because of things he saw

and did in the war. He is the man who introduces Billy to the science

fiction of Kilgore Trout. Billy is enduring one of his mother's dreaded

visits. She is a simple, religious woman. She makes Billy feel worse just

by being there. Billy leaps back in time to the POW camp. A British colonel

talks to Derby; after the newly arrived Americans shaved, the British were

shocked by how young they all were. Derby tells of how he was captured: the

Americans were pushed back into a forest, and the Germans rained shells on

them until they surrendered.

Billy leaps back to the hospital. He is being visited by his ugly,

overweight fiancйe Valencia. He knew he was going crazy when he proposed to

her. He does not want to marry her. She is visiting now, eating a Three

Musketeers bar and wearing a diamond engagement ring that Billy found while

in Germany. Elliot tells her about The Gospel from Outer Space, a Kilgore

Trout book.

Valencia tries to talk to Billy about plans for their wedding and

marriage, but he is not too involved. He leaps forward in time to the zoo

on Trafalmadore, where he was on display when he was forty-four years old.

The habitat is furnished with Sears and Roebuck furniture. He is naked. He

answers questions posed by the Trafalmadorian tourists. He learns that

there are five sexes among the Trafalmadorians, but the sex difference is

only visible in the fourth dimension. On earth there are actually seven

sexes, all necessary to the production of children; earthlings just do not

notice the sex difference between themselves because many of the sex acts

occur in the fourth dimension. These ideas baffle Billy, and they in turn

are baffled by his linear concept of time. Billy expects the

Trafalmadorians to be concerned about or horrified by the wars on earth. He

worries that earthlings will eventually threaten all the other races in the

galaxy, causing the eventual destruction of the universe. The

Trafalmadorians put their hands over their eyes, which lets Billy know that

he is being stupid.

The Trafalmadorians already know how the universe will end: during

experiments with a new fuel, one of their test pilots pushes a button and

the entire universe will disappear. They cannot prevent it. It has always

happened that way. Billy correctly concludes that trying to prevent wars on

Earth is futile. The Trafalmadorians also have wars, but they choose to

ignore them. They spend their time looking at the pleasant moments rather

than the unpleasant ones; they suggest that humans learn to do the same.

Billy leaps back in time to his wedding night. It is six months after his

release from the mental ward. The narrator reminds us that Valencia and her

father are very rich, and Billy will benefit greatly from his marriage to

her. After they have sex, Valencia tries to ask Billy questions about the

war. She wants a heroic war story, but Billy does not really respond to

her. He has a crazy thought about the war, which Vonnegut says would make a

good epitaph for Billy, and for the author, too: "Everything was beautiful,

and nothing hurt." He jumps in time to that night in the prison camp. Edgar

Derby has fallen asleep. Billy, doped up still from the morphine, wanders

out of the hospital shed. He snags himself on a barbed wire fence, and

cannot extract himself until a Russian helps him.

Billy never really says a word to the Russian. He wanders to the latrine,

where the Americans are sick from the feasting. A long period without food

followed by a feast almost always results in violent sickness. Among the

sick Americans is a soldier complaining that he has shit his brains out. It

is Vonnegut. Billy leaves, passing by three Englishmen who watch the

Americans' sickness with disgust. Billy jumps in time again, back to his

wedding night. He and his wife are cozy in bed. He jumps in time again, to

1944. It is before he left for Europe; he is riding the train from South

Carolina, where he was receiving his training, all the way back to Ilium

for his father's funeral.

We return to Billy's morphine night in the POW camp. Paul Lazarro is

carried into the hospital; while attempting to steal cigarettes from a

sleeping British officer, he was beaten up. The officer is the one carrying

him. Seeing now how puny Lazarro is, the officer feels guilty for hitting

him so hard. But he is disgusted by the American POWs. A German soldier who

adores the British officers comes in and apologizes for the inconvenience

of hosting the Americans. He assures the Brits in the room that the

Americans will soon be shipped off for forced labor in Dresden. The German

officer reads propaganda materials written by Howard Campbell, Jr., a

captured American who is now a Nazi. Campbell condemns the self-loathing of

the American poor, the inequalities of America's economic system, and the

miserable behavior of American POWs. Billy falls asleep and wakes up in

1968, where his daughter Barbara is scolding him. Barbara notices the house

is icy cold and goes to call the oil-burner man.

Billy leaps in time to the Trafalmadorian zoo, where Montana Wildhack, a

motion picture star, has been brought in to mate with him. Initially

unconscious, she wakes to find naked Billy and thousands of Trafalmadorians

outside their habitat. They're clapping. She screams. Eventually, though,

she comes to love and trust Billy. After a week they're sleeping together.

He travels in time back to his bed in 1968. The oil-burner man has fixed

the problem with the heater. Billy has just had a wet dream about Montana

Wildhack. The next day, he returns to work. His assistants are surprised to

see him, because they thought that he would never practice again. He has

the first patient sent in, a boy whose father died in Vietnam. Billy tries

to comfort the boy by telling him about the Trafalmadorian concept of time.

The boy's mother informs the receptionist that Billy is going crazy.

Barbara comes to take him home, sick with worry about what how to deal with


Chapter Six. Summary:

Billy wakes after his morphine night in POW camp irresistibly drawn to two

tiny treasures. They draw him like magnets; they are hidden in the lining

of his coat. It will be revealed later on exactly what they are. He goes

back to sleep, and wakes up to the sounds of the British building a new

latrine. They have abandoned their old latrine and their meeting hall to

the Americans. The man who beat up Lazarro stops by to make sure he is all

right, and Lazarro promises that he is going to have the man killed after

the war. After the amused Brit leaves, Lazarro tells Derby and Billy that

revenge is life's sweetest pleasure. He once brutally tortured a dog that

bit him. He is going to have all of his enemies killed after the war. He

tells Billy that Weary was his buddy, and he is going to avenge him by

having Billy shot after the war. Because of his time hopping, Billy knows

that this is true. He will be shot in 1976. At that time, the United States

has split into twenty tiny nations. Billy will be lecturing in Chicago on

the Trafalmadorian concept of time and the fourth dimension. He tells the

spectators that he is about to die, and urges them to accept it. After the

lecture, he is shot in the head by a high-powered laser gun.

Back in the POW camp, Billy, Derby, and Lazarro go the theater to elect a

leader. On the way over, they see a Brit drawing a line in the dirt to

separate the American and British sections of the compound. In the theater,

Americans are sleeping anywhere that they can. A Brit lectures them on

hygiene, and Edgar Derby is elected leader. Only two or three men actually

have the energy to vote. Billy dresses himself in a piece of azure curtain

and Cinderella's boots. The Americans ride the train to Dresden. Dresden is

a beautiful city, appearing on the horizon like something out of a fairy

tale. They are met by eight German irregulars, boys and old men who will be

in charge of them for the rest of the war. They march through town towards

their new home. The people of Dresden watch them, and most of them are

amused by Billy's outlandish costume. One surgeon is not. He scolds Billy

about dignity and representing his country and war not being a joke, but

Billy is honestly perplexed by the man's anger. He shows the man his two

treasures from the lining of his coat: a two-carat diamond and some false

teeth. The Americans are brought to their new home, a converted building

originally for the slaughter of pigs. The building has a large 5 on it. The

POWs are taught the German name for their new home, in case they get lost

in the city. In English, it is called Slaughterhouse Five.

Chapter Seven. Summary:

Billy is on a plane next to his father-in-law. Billy and a number of

optometrists have chartered a plane to go to a convention in Montreal.

There's a barbershop quartet on board. Billy's father-in-law loves it when

they sing songs mocking the Polish. Vonnegut mentions that in Germany Billy

saw a Pole getting executed for having sex with a German girl. Billy leaps

in time to his wandering behind the German lines with the two scouts and

Roland Weary. He leaps in time again to the plane crash. Everyone dies but

him. The plane has crashed in Vermont, and Billy is found by Austrian ski

instructors. When he hears them speaking German, he thinks he's back in the

war. He is unconscious for days, and during that time he dreams about the

days right before the bombing.

He remembers a boy named Werner Gluck, one of the guards. He was good-

natured, as awkward and puny as Billy. One day, Gluck and Billy and Derby

were looking for the kitchen. Derby and Billy were pulling a two-wheeled

cart; it was their duty to bring dinner back for the boys. Gluck pulled a

door open, thinking the kitchen might be there, and instead revealed naked

teenage girls showering, refugees from another city that was bombed. The

women scream and Gluck shuts the door. When they finally find the kitchen,

an old cook talks with the trio critically and proclaims that all the real

soldiers are dead. Billy also remembers working in the malt syrup factory

in Dresden. The syrup is for pregnant women, and it is fortified with

vitamins. The POWs do everything they can to sneak spoonfuls of it. Billy

sneaks a spoonful to Edgar Derby, who is outside. He bursts into tears

after he tastes it.

Chapter Eight. Summary:

Howard Campbell, Jr., the American-turned-Nazi propagandist, visits the

captives of Slaughterhouse Five. He wears an elaborate costume of his own

design, a cross between cowboy outfit and a Nazi uniform. The POWs are

tired and unhealthy, undernourished and overworked. Campbell offers them

good eating if they join his Free American Corps. The Corps is Campbell's

idea. Composed of Americans fighting for the Germans, they will be sent to

fight on the Russian front. After the war, they will be repatriated through

Switzerland. Campbell reasons that the Americans will have to fight the

Soviet Union sooner or later, and they might as well get it out of the way.

Edgar Derby rises for his finest moment. He denounces Campbell soundly,

praises American forms of government, and speaks of the brotherhood between

Russians and Americans. Air raid sirens sound, and everyone takes cover in

a meat locker. The firebombing will not occur until tomorrow night; these

sirens are only a false alarm. Billy dozes, and then leaps in time to an

argument with his daughter Barbara. She is worrying about what should be

done about Billy. She tells him that she feels like she could kill Kilgore


We move to Billy's first meeting with Trout, which happened in 1964. He is

out driving when he recognizes Trout from the jackets of his books. Trout's

books have never made money, so he works as a newspaper circulation man,

bullying and terrorizing newspaper delivery boys. One of Trout's boys

quits, and Billy offers to help Trout deliver the papers on the boy's

route. He gives Trout a ride. Trout is overwhelmed by meeting an avid fan.

He has only received one letter in the course of his career, and the letter

was crazed. It was written by none other than Billy's friend from the

mental ward, Elliot Rosewater. Billy invites Kilgore Trout to his

anniversary party.

At the party, Trout is obnoxious, but the optometrists and their spouses

are still enchanted by having an actual writer among them. A barbershop

quartet sings "That Old Gang of Mine," and Billy is visibly disturbed.

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