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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

barbershop quartet.

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,

lunar surface.

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

he loves.

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

25, 1902.

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

or sixteen.

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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