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Slaughterhouse-Five Chapter One

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									Slaughterhouse-Five: Chapter One

1. Who was Gerhard Muller? Where did Vonnegut meet him?

2. On page two of the novel, Vonnegut quotes from the postcard sent by his friend “.
. . we’ll meet again in a world of peace and freedom in the taxi cab if the accident
will.” Vonnegut writes, “I like that very much: ‘If the accident will.’” Consider the
possible reasons why Vonnegut would like that particular phrase so much. What
ideas about life and humanity could it imply?

3. On page three of the novel, Vonnegut mentions a discussion he had with the
movie producer Harrison Starr and then discusses Starr’s comment that he makes
to those who say they are writing anti-war books, “Why don’t you write an anti-
glacier book instead?” What point is Starr making and what is Vonnegut’s opinion
of this point? Also, if Vonnegut agrees with Starr, what possible reasons could he
have for continuing to write his book?

4. What is the reason Mary O’Hare is so hostile to Vonnegut when he visits her
husband Bernard? What does Vonnegut say that makes them friends?

5. What was the Children’s Crusade? Why did Vonnegut use this term as a subtitle
to his novel? What point is he making?
Slaughterhouse-Five: Chapter Two

1. What is Billy’s major problem as stated at the beginning of Chapter 2? How does
Vonnegut say Billy responds to this problem? How would you likely react if you
were in the same situation? Would you think it was a blessing or a curse? Why?

2. In Chapter 1, Vonnegut mentions the Children’s Crusade. How is his depiction of
Billy Pilgrim, Roland Weary, and others in Chapter 2 in keeping with this term?

3. How would you assess the depiction of human nature in Slaughterhouse-Five? Do
you think Vonnegut sees people as basically good or evil? What proof can you
identify in Chapter 2?

4. On page 39 of the novel, Vonnegut describes Billy’s mother with “Like so many
Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found
in gift shops.” What point is Vonnegut trying to make with this statement? Is this a
valid assessment or criticism of American society? Why or why not?

5. When do the Tralfamadorians say “So it goes”? What does this mean in terms of
time and death? Why would Billy think this is a comforting idea?
Slaughterhouse-Five: Chapter Three

1. How does Vonnegut characterize the German soldiers who capture Billy Pilgrim
and Roland Weary at the very beginning of Chapter 3? Can this be connected to his
earlier descriptions of Billy Pilgrim and Roland Weary and the theme he presents
through them?

2. In Chapter Three, Vonnegut describes Billy’s life after the war. How does
Vonnegut describe Billy’s life, the events and Billy’s attitudes towards these events?
What might Vonnegut be criticizing about American society?

3. On page 60, Vonnegut prints a prayer that Billy Pilgrim had on his office wall:

              “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
               Difference.”

  Vonnegut then reports: “Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were
  the past, the present, and the future.”

  Explain what you think the prayer means and your personal reaction to it.
Slaughterhouse-Five: Chapter Four

1. On page 60, Vonnegut prints a prayer that Billy Pilgrim had on his office wall:

              “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
               Difference.”

  Vonnegut then reports: “Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were
  the past, the present, and the future.”

  Explain how this idea relates to Vonnegut’s description of time and what the
Tralfamadorians say about time and free will in Chapter Four. Make sure you
consider the Tralfamadorian’s analogy of bugs in amber and their ideas about free
will.

2. Consider the characters, both major and minor, that Vonnegut includes in
Chapters Three and Four. Assess these characters in terms of Vonnegut’s view of
human nature.

3. At the beginning of Chapter Four, shortly before being kidnapped by the
Tralfamadorians, Billy Pilgrim becomes unstuck in time and sees a war picture
backwards. What statement is Vonnegut making with this incident and his
commentary about it?

4. At the end of Chapter Four, the Tralfamadorians state that they find the idea of
free will astonishing and that humans are the only species that has such an idea.
This brings up the issue of how much control the individual has over his or her life.
How much do we control our own futures and how much are we at the mercy of
forces beyond our control? Explain your ideas in detail.
Slaughterhouse-Five: Chapter Six Response Items

1. How is Paul Lazzaro depicted in Chapter Six? What does he value in life? What
aspect of human nature might he represent and what point is Vonnegut making
here?
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2. Describe how Billy Pilgrim dies. What is Billy’s attitude towards this and what
does he tell the crowd? What might Vonnegut wish the reader to take away from
this?
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