American Literature books summary
After giving Valencia her gift, he flees upstairs. Lying in bed, Billy
remembers the bombing of Dresden.
We see the events as Billy remembers them. He and the other POWs, along
with four of their guards, spend the night in the meat locker. The girls
from the shower were being killed in a shallower shelter nearby. The POWs
emerge at noon the next day into what looks like the surface of the moon.
The guards gape at the destruction. They look like a silent film of a
We move to the Trafalmadorian Zoo. Montana Wildhack asked Billy to tell her
a story. He tells her about the burnt logs, actually corpses. He tells her
about the great monuments and buildings of the city turned into a flat,
We move to Dresden. Without food or water, the POWs have to march to find
some if they are to survive. They make their way across the treacherous
landscape, much of it still hot, bits of crumbling. They are attacked by
American fighter planes. The end up in the suburbs, at an inn that has
prepared to receive any survivors. The innkeeper lets the Americans sleep
in the stable. He provides them with food and drink, and goes out to bid
them goodnight as they go to bed.
Chapter Nine. Summary:
When Billy is in the hospital in Vermont, Valencia goes crazy with grief.
Driving to the hospital, she gets in a terrible accident. She gears up her
car and continues driving to the hospital, determined to get there even
though she leaves her exhaust system behind. She pulls into the hospital
driveway and falls unconscious from carbon monoxide poisoning. An hour
later, she is dead.
Billy is oblivious, unconscious in his bed, dreaming and time traveling. In
the bed next to him is Bertram Copeland Ruumford, an arrogant retired
Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserve. He is a seventy-year-old
Harvard professor and the official historian of the Air Force, and he is in
superb physical condition. He has a twenty-three year-old high school
dropout with an IQ of 103. He is an arrogant jingoist. Currently he is
working on a history of the Air Corp in World War II. He has to write a
section on the success of the Dresden bombing. Ruumfoord's wife Lily is
scared of Billy, who mumbles deliriously. Ruumfoord is disgusted by him,
because all he does in his sleep in quit or surrender.
Barbara comes to visit Billy. She is in a horrible state, drugged up so she
can function after the recent tragedies. Billy cannot hear her. He is
remembering an eye exam he gave to a retarded boy a decade ago. Then he
leaps in time when he was sixteen years old. In the waiting room of a
doctor's office, he sees an old man troubled by horrible gas. Billy opens
his eyes and he is back in the hospital in Vermont. His son Robert, a
decorated Green Beret, is there. Billy closes his eyes again.
He misses Valencia's funeral because he is till too sick. People assume
that he is a vegetable, but actually he is thinking actively about
Trafalmadorians and the lectures he will deliver about time and the
permanence of moments. Overhearing Ruumford talk about Dresden, Billy
finally speaks up and tells Ruumford that he was at Dresden. Ruumford
ignores him, trying to convince himself and the doctors that Billy has
Echonalia, a condition where the sufferer simply repeats what he hears.
Billy leaps in time to May of 1945, two days after the end of the war in
Europe. In a coffin-shaped green wagon, Billy and five other Americans ride
with loot from the suburbs of Dresden. They found the wagon, attached to
two horses, and have been using it to carry things that they have taken.
The homes have been abandoned because the Russians are coming, and the
Americans have been looting. When they go to the slaughterhouse and the
other five Americans loot among the ruins, Billy naps in the wagon. He has
a cavalry pistol and a Luftwaffe ceremonial saber. He wakes; two Germans, a
husband-and-wife pair of obstetricians, are angry about how the Americans
have treated the horses. The horses' hooves are shattered, their mouths are
bleeding from the bits, and they are extremely thirsty. Billy goes around
to look at the horses, and he bursts into tears. It is the only time he
cries in the whole war. Vonnegut reminds the reader of the epigraph at the
start of the book, an excerpt from a Christmas carol that describes the
baby Jesus as not crying. Billy cries very little.
He leaps in time back to the hospital in Vermont, where Ruumford is finally
questioning Billy about Dresden. Barbara takes Billy home later that day.
Billy is watched by a nurse; he is supposed to be under observation, but he
escapes to New York City and gets a hotel room. He plans to tell the world
about the Trafalmadorians and their concept of time. The next day, Billy
goes into a bookstore that sells pornography, peep shows, and Kilgore Trout
novels. Billy is only interested in Kilgore Trout novels. In one of the
pornographic magazines, there is an article about the disappearance of porn
star Montana Wildhack. Later, Billy sneaks onto a radio talk show by posing
as a literary critic. The critics take turns discussing the novel, but when
Billy gets his turn he talks about Trafalmadore. At the next commercial
break, he is made to leave. When he goes back to his hotel room and lies
down, he travels back in time to Trafalmadore. Montana is nursing their
child. She wears a locket with a picture of her mother and the same prayer
that Billy had on his office wall in Ilium.
Chapter Ten. Summary:
Vonnegut tells us that Robert Kennedy died last night. Martin Luther King,
Jr., was assassinated a month ago. Body counts are reported every night on
the news as signs that the war in Vietnam is being won. Vonnegut's father
died years ago of natural causes. He left Billy all of his guns, which
rust. Billy claims that on Trafalmadore the aliens are more interested in
Darwin than Jesus. Darwin, says Vonnegut, taught that death was the means
to progress. Vonnegut recalls the pleasant trip he made to Dresden with his
old war buddy, O'Hare. They were looking up facts about Dresden in a little
book when O'Hare came across a passage on the exploding world population.
By 2000, the book predicts, the world will have a population of 7 billion
people. Vonnegut says that he supposes they will all want dignity.
Billy Pilgrim travels back in time to 1945, two days after the bombing of
Dresden. German authorities find the POWs in the innkeeper's stable. Along
with other POWs, they are brought back to Dresden to dig for bodies. Bodies
are trapped in protected pockets under the rubble, and the POWs are put to
work bringing them up. But after one of the workers is lowered into a
pocket and dies of the dry heaves, the Germans settle on incinerating the
bodies instead of retrieving them. During this time, Edgar Derby is caught
with a teapot he took from the ruins. He is tried and executed by a firing
Then the POWs were returned to the stable. The German soldiers went off to
fight the Soviets. Spring comes, and one day in May the war is over. Billy
and the other men go outside into the abandoned suburbs. They find a horse-
drawn wagon, the wagon green and shaped like a coffin. The birds sing, "Po-
The Sound and the Fury
Summary of April Seventh, 1928:
This section of the book is commonly referred to as "Benjy's section"
because it is narrated by the retarded youngest son of the Compson family,
Benjamin Compson. At this point in the story, Benjy is 33 years old - in
fact, today is his birthday - but the story skips back and forth in time as
various events trigger memories. When the reader first plunges into this
narrative, the jumps in time are difficult to navigate or understand,
although many scenes are marked by recurring images, sounds, or words. In
addition, a sort of chronology can be established depending on who is
Benjy's caretaker: first Versh when Benjy is a child, then T. P. when he is
an adolescent, then Luster when he is an adult. One other fact that may
confuse first-time readers is the repetition of names. There are, for
example, two Jasons (father and son), two Quentins (Benjy's brother and
Caddy's daughter), and two Mauries (Benjy himself before 1900 and Benjy's
uncle). Benjy recalls three important events: the evening of his
grandmother "Damuddy's" death in 1898, his name change in 1900, and Caddy's
sexual promiscuity and wedding in 1910, although these events are
punctuated by other memories, including the delivery of a letter to his
uncle's mistress in 1902 or 1903, Caddy's wearing perfume in 1906, a
sequence of events at the gate of the house in 1910 and 1911 that
culminates in his castration, Quentin's death in 1910, his father's death
and funeral in 1912, and Roskus's death some time after this. I will
summarize each event briefly.
The events of the present day (4/7/28) center around Luster's search for a
quarter he has lost somewhere on the property. He received this quarter
from his grandmother Dilsey in order to go to the circus that evening.
Luster takes Benjy with him as he searches by the golf course that used to
be the Compson's pasture, by the carriage house, down by the branch of the
Yoknapatawpha River, and finally near Benjy's "graveyard" of jimson flowers
in a bottle.
As the story opens, Benjy and Luster are by the golf course, where the
golfers' cries of "caddie" cause Benjy to "beller" because he mistakes
their cries for his missing sister Caddy's name. In the branch, Luster
finds a golfer's ball, which he later tries to sell to the golfers; they
accuse him of stealing it and take it from him. Luster tries to steer Benjy
away from the swing, where Miss Quentin and her "beau" (one of the
musicians from the circus) are sitting, but is unsuccessful. Quentin is
furious and runs into the house, while her friend jokes with Luster and
asks him who visits Quentin. Luster replies that there are too many male
visitors to distinguish.
Luster takes Benjy past the fence, where Benjy sees schoolgirls passing
with their satchels. Benjy moans whenever Luster tries to break from the
routine path Benjy is used to. At Benjy's "graveyard," Luster disturbs the
arrangement of flowers in the blue bottle, causing Benjy to cry. At this
Luster becomes frustrated and says "beller. You want something to beller
about. All right, then. Caddy. . . . Caddy. Beller now. Caddy" (55).
Benjy's crying summons Dilsey, Luster's grandmother, who scolds him for
making Benjy cry and for disturbing Quentin. They go in the kitchen, where
Dilsey opens the oven door so Benjy can watch the fire. Dilsey has bought
Benjy a birthday cake, and Luster blows out the candles, making Benjy cry
again. Luster teases him by closing the oven door so that the fire "goes
away." Dilsey scolds Luster again. Benjy is burned when he tries to touch
the fire. His cries disturb his mother, who comes to the kitchen and
reprimands Dilsey. Dilsey gives him an old slipper to hold, an object that
Luster takes Benjy to the library, where his cries disturb Jason, who comes
to the door and yells at Luster. Luster asks Jason for a quarter. At
dinner, Jason interrogates Quentin about the man she was with that
afternoon and threatens to send Benjy to an asylum in Jackson. Quentin
threatens to run away, and she and Jason fight. She runs out of the room.
Benjy goes to the library, where Luster finds him and shows him that
Quentin has given him a quarter. Luster dresses Benjy for bed; when Benjy's
pants are off he looks down and cries when he is reminded of his
castration. Luster puts on his nightgown and the two of them watch as
Quentin climbs out her window and down a tree. Luster puts Benjy to bed.
Benjy's memories, in chronological order:
Damuddy's death, 1898: Benjy is three years old and his name at this point
is still Maury. Caddy is seven, Quentin is older (nine?) and Jason is
between seven and three.
The four children are playing in the branch of the river. Roskus calls them
to supper, but Caddy refuses to come. She squats down in the river and gets
her dress wet; Versh tells her that her mother will whip her for that.
Caddy asks Versh to help her take her dress off, and Quentin warns him not
to. Caddy takes off her dress and Quentin hits her. The two of them fight
in the branch and get muddy. Caddy says that she will run away, which makes
Maury/Benjy cry; she immediately takes it back. Roskus asks Versh to bring
the children to the house, and Versh puts Caddy's dress back on her.
They head up to the house, but Quentin stays behind, throwing rocks into
the river. The children notice that all the lights are on in the house and
assume that their parents are having a party. Father tells the children to
be quiet and to eat dinner in the kitchen; he won't tell them why they have
to be quiet. Caddy asks him to tell the other children to mind her for the
evening, and he does. The children hear their mother crying, which makes
Maury/Benjy cry. Quentin is also agitated by her crying, but Caddy
reassures him that she is just singing. Jason too begins to cry.
The children go outside and down to the servants' quarters, where Frony and
T. P. (who are children at this point) have a jar of lightning bugs. Frony
asks about the funeral, and Versh scolds her for mentioning it. The
children discuss the only death they know - when their mare Nancy died and
the buzzards "undressed her" in a ditch. Caddy asks T. P. to give
Maury/Benjy his jar of lightning bugs to hold. The children go back up to
the house and stop outside the parlor window. Caddy climbs up a tree to see
in the window, and the children watch her muddy drawers as she climbs.
Dilsey comes out of the house and yells at them. Caddy tells the others
that their parents were not doing anything inside, although she may be
trying to protect them from the truth. The children go inside and upstairs.
Father comes to help tuck them into bed in a strange room. Dilsey dresses
them and tucks them in, and they go to sleep.
Benjy's name change, 1900: Benjy is five years old, Caddy is nine, etc.
Benjy is sitting by the library fire and watching it. Dilsey and Caddy
discuss Benjy's new name; Dilsey wants to know why his parents have changed
it, and Caddy replies that mother said Benjamin was a better name for him
than Maury was. Dilsey says that "folks don't have no luck, changing names"
(58). Caddy brings Benjy to where her mother is lying in the bedroom with a
cloth on her head, to say good night. Benjy can hear the clock ticking and
the rain falling on the roof. Mother chides Caddy not to carry him because
he is too heavy and will ruin her posture. She holds Benjy's face in her
hands and repeats "Benjamin" over and over. Benjy cries until Caddy holds
his favorite cushion over his mother's head.
She leads him to the fire so that he can watch it. Father picks him up,
and he watches the reflection of Caddy and Jason fighting in the library
mirror. Father puts him down and breaks up Caddy and Jason, who are
fighting because Jason cut up all of Benjy's paper dolls. Father takes
Jason to the room next door and spanks him. They all sit by the fire, and
Benjy holds his cushion. Quentin comes and sits next to them. He has been
in a fight at school and has a bruise. Father asks him about it. Versh sits
next to them and tells them a story about a "bluegum" he knows who changed
his name too. Father tells him to be quiet. Caddy and Versh feed Benjy his
dinner, and the four children sit in father's lap. Benjy says that Caddy
and Quentin smell like trees and rain.
Versh, Caddy and Benjy go outside, December 23, 1902: Benjy is seven years
old and Caddy is eleven.
Benjy is crying because he wants to go outside. Mother says it is too cold
for him and he will freeze his hands. She says that if he won't be quiet he
will have to go to the kitchen. Versh replies that Dilsey wants him out of
the kitchen because she has a lot of cooking to do, and Uncle Maury tells
her to let him go outside. Versh puts on his coat and they go outside;
Versh tells him to keep his hands in his pockets. Caddy comes through the
gate, home from school. She takes his hands and they run through the fallen
leaves into the house. Caddy puts him by the fire, and Versh starts to take
his coat off, but Caddy asks if she can take him outside again. Versh puts
on his overshoes again, and mother takes his face in her hands and calls
him "my poor baby," but Caddy kneels by him and tells him that he is not a
poor baby at all because he has her. Benjy notices that she smells like
Caddy and Benjy deliver Uncle Maury's letter to Mrs. Patterson, December
Caddy and Benjy cross the yard by the barn, where the servants are killing
a pig for dinner. Caddy tells Benjy to keep his hands in his pockets and
lets him hold the letter. She wonders why Uncle Maury did not send Versh
with the letter. They cross the frozen branch and come to the Patterson's
fence. Caddy takes the letter and climbs the fence to deliver it. Mrs.
Patterson comes out of the house.
Benjy delivers a letter to Mrs. Patterson alone, spring 1903: Benjy is
eight years old.
Benjy is at the Patterson's fence. Mr. Patterson is in the garden cutting
flowers. Mrs. Patterson runs from the house to the fence, and Benjy cries
when he sees her angry eyes. She says that she told Maury not to send Benjy
alone again, and asks Benjy to give her the letter. Mr. Patterson comes
running, climbs the fence and takes the letter. Benjy runs away.
Caddy wears perfume, 1906: Benjy is ten years old and Caddy is fourteen.
Caddy tries to hug Benjy but he cries and pushes her away. Jason says that
he must not like her "prissy dress," and says that she thinks she is all
grown up just because she is fourteen. Caddy tries to hush Benjy, but he
disturbs their mother, who calls them to her room. Mother tells Caddy to
give Benjy his box full of cut-out stars. Caddy walks to the bathroom and
washes the perfume off. Benjy goes to the door. Caddy opens the door and
hugs him; she smells like trees again. They go into Caddy's room and she
sits at her mirror. Benjy starts to cry again. She gives him the bottle of
perfume to smell and he runs away, crying. She realizes what made him cry
and tells him she will never wear it again. They go to the kitchen, and
Caddy tells Dilsey that the perfume is a present from Benjy to her. Dilsey
takes the bottle, and Caddy says that "we don't like perfume ourselves"
Caddy in the swing, 1907?: Benjy is eleven or twelve and Caddy is fifteen
Benjy is out in the yard at night. T. P. calls for him through the window.
He watches the swing, where there are "two now, then one in the swing"
(47). Caddy comes running to him, asking how he got out. She calls for T.
P. Benjy cries and pulls at her dress. Charlie, the boy she is with on the
swing, comes over and asks where T. P. is. Benjy cries and she tells
Charlie to go away. He goes, and she calls for T. P. again. Charlie comes
back and puts his hands on Caddy. She tells him to stop, because Benjy can
see, but he doesn't. She says she has to take Benjy to the house. She takes
his hand and they run to the house and up the porch steps. She hugs him,
and they go inside. Charlie is calling her, but she goes to the kitchen
sink and scrubs her mouth with soap. Benjy sees that she smells like trees
Benjy sleeps alone for the first time, 1908: Benjy is thirteen years old.
Dilsey tells Benjy that he is too old to sleep with anyone else, and that
he will sleep in Uncle Maury's room. Uncle Maury has a black eye and a
swollen mouth, and Father says that he is going to shoot Mr. Patterson.
Mother scolds him and father apologizes. He is drunk.
Dilsey puts Benjy to bed alone, but he cries, and Dilsey comes back. Then
Caddy comes in and lies in the bed with him. She smells like trees. Dilsey
says she will leave the light on in Caddy's room so she can go back there
after Benjy has fallen asleep.
Caddy loses her virginity, 1909: Benjy is fourteen years old and Caddy is
Caddy walks quickly past the door where mother, father, and Benjy are.
Mother calls her in, and she comes to the door. She glances at Benjy, then
glances away. He begins to cry. He goes to her and pulls at her dress,
crying. She is against the wall, and she starts to cry. He chases her up
the stairs, crying. She stops with her back against the wall, crying, and
looks at him with her hand on her mouth. Benjy pushes her into the
Caddy's wedding, 1910: Benjy is fifteen years old and Caddy is nineteen.
Benjy, Quentin, and T. P. are outside the barn, and T. P. has given Benjy
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