Notes on Objects & Places from Slaughterhouse-Five

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Slaughterhouse-Five Objects/Places

Dresden: Dresden is a city in Germany which was firebombed during World War II. Billy is held as a prisoner of war in Dresden, and is there for the bombing

Slaughterhouse: Billy and the other Americans are kept as prisoners of war in a slaughterhouse in Dresden, Germany.

Tralfamadore: Tralfamadore is the planet which Billy says he was taken in a saucer. He is able to time-travel and often travels to his future there while he is fighting in the war. The Tralfamadorians look like toilet plungers with little hands. They see time as something constant, where events always have happened, are happening, and will happen, as opposed to how Earthlings are stuck in the present and live moment-to-moment.

Children's Crusade: The narrator promises Mary O'Hare that he will subtitle his book 'The Children's Crusade' after she angrily tells him that they were just babies when they fought in the war. She is afraid that he will write a book glorifying the war, which will encourage more wars to happen, making it necessary for her babies to fight in wars someday.

mustard gas and roses: This is the narrator's repeating motif for something that smells bad or rotten. He uses it to describe his breath late at night when he makes phone calls to people he hasn't seen in a long time. He also uses it to describe the corpse mine from which the soldiers have to extract bodies of the victims of the Dresden bombing.

'Poo-tee-weet?': 'Poo-tee-weet?' is the sound of a bird chirping. Billy hears it at the very end of the novel, and it is foreshadowed when the narrator reveals at the end of the first chapter that his story will begin 'Listen:' and end 'Poo-tee-weet?'.

Ilium: Ilium is the city in New York where Billy and his wife Valencia live.

So it goes: 'So it goes' is the phrase that follows each and every mention of death in the novel, whether it is the mass death after the bombing of Dresden or the death of the lice and bacteria on the soldier's clothes as they are cleaned. It signifies the Tralfamadorian attitude toward death, which the protagonist Billy Pilgrim has adopted as his own. Their belief is that moments exist not sequentially, with a past, present and future; but as a constant state of has happened, is happening, and will happen. Therefore, when a person or thing is dead, they are also alive, because every moment that they were alive is simultaneously existing-- it is just that their body is currently not in very good shape. So they say 'So it goes.'

Weary's knife: Roland Weary has a three-sided knife, which he shows to Billy and explains that it makes a wound which will not close. The Germans who capture he and Billy take it away from him.

Plane crash: Billy is the only survivor of a plane crash which happens when the plane crashes into the top of a mountain in Vermont on the way to an optometrist's convention. After the plane crash, he begins to talk freely about his experiences on Tralfamadore.

Sodom and Gemorrah: Sodom and Gemorrah are biblical cities which God destroyed because there were wicked people living there. The family of Lot was spared, but told not to look back as they fled. Lot's wife looked back and she was turned into a pillar of salt. The narrator explains that people are not supposed to look back anymore, and that the book he tried to write about his experiences in the war was not good, because it was written by a pillar of salt.

Princess: Princess is the lady dog who arrives with the Germans who come to capture Roland Weary and Billy. They have heard her bark from afar and she sounds fierce, but the narrator reveals that she is a farmer's dog that they borrowed that morning and she has never been in war.

Sapphire ring: Billy bought Valencia a star sapphire ring for their eighteenth wedding anniversary. He was planning on presenting it to her in front of everyone, but he was so upset by the barbershop quartet which sang at the party that he felt faint and absent-mindedly handed it to her.

Late movie: Billy watches the late movie one night. Because he can time-travel, he watches it forward and backward. Backward, to summarize, the movie goes like this: American planes suck up shrapnel and fire from the ground and put it back in cylinders which they pack in their planes and which are sent back to be disassembled in factories, their dangerous contents hidden deep in the ground where no one can find them again.

Valley of the Dolls: Valley of the Dolls is the only book the Tralfamadorians have for Billy to read on the way to the planet in the saucer. All the rest of the books are in Tralfamadorian, a series of symbols which Billy cannot read.

Locket: Montana Wildhack, the movie star who is kept captive with Billy on Tralfamadore, wears a locket with these words engraved on it: '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.' There is a picture of the locket and her breasts in the book. Billy has the same epigram on the wall of his optometrist's office.

Red Badge of Courage: Red Badge of Courage is a novel by Stephen Crane. It is the story of a young man's experiences in war. Edgar Derby reads it to Billy Pilgrim when they are in the hospital.

Zoo: Montana Wildhack and Billy Pilgrim are kept in a zoo on Tralfamadore, where they are kept in a sealed dome and observed in a habitat of furniture that the Tralfamadorians stole from a warehouse.

Febs: The Febs are a barbershop quartet whose name stands for 'Four-eyed Bastards.' Their music causes Billy to flip out at his eighteenth wedding anniversary, because they remind him of the guards during the war. They and everyone else but Billy die on the plane crash in Vermont on the way to an optometrists' convention.

Schlachthof-funf: Schlachthof-funf is the German for Slaughterhouse-Five. The Germans tell the Americans kept as prisoners of war in Dresden to remember this as their address in case they get lost.

Free American Corps: Howard W. Campbell, Jr., the American turned Nazi-propagandist, tries to get the Americans to join his racist, anti-Communist organization by visiting them when the are prisoners of war and promising them meat and potatoes if they join.

Syrup-spooning: Billy and other prisoners of war work in a factory that makes a sticky syrup full of vitamins and minerals which is for pregnant women. All the workers spoon syrup for themselves. This is illegal, so they hide the spoons everywhere. Edgar Derby shows up and Billy makes him a syrup lollipop on a spoon and Derby is so happy that he cries.

Diamond: The two-carat diamond is one of the two objects that Billy finds in the dead civilian's coat that the Germans gave him. He has it set as an engagement ring for Valencia. He could feel it in the pocket, but he knows not to take it out until he needs it, which was when he was confronted by a German soldier for his ridiculous outfit made of the red toga and silver boots he got from the Englishmen's theatre set.

Partial denture: The partial denture is one of the two objects that Billy finds in the dead civilian's coat that the Germans gave him. He could feel it in the pocket, but he knows not to take it out until he needs it, which was when he was confronted by a German soldier for his ridiculous outfit made of the red toga and silver boots he got from the Englishmen's theatre set. He keeps the partial denture in a drawer with his cufflinks, which he has accumulated because he gets a pair for each Father's Day.

Corpse mine: Several days after the bombing of Dresden, the prisoners of war are sent out to the burnt city, where they must dig up the dead bodies of those killed in the bombing. Billy Pilgrim digs with a Maori man, who dies from vomiting too much from the stench like mustard gas and roses.

Ilium School of Optometry: Billy goes to this school to become an optometrist. He marries the daughter of the owner.

umpire: The narrator describes 'umpires' as people who come and tell the soldiers who is winning or losing the war.

Billy's crucifix: Billy had a gory crucifix hanging over his bed that his mother bought for him in Santa Fe. When Roland Weary tells him gory stories and thinks he knows nothing of the sort, Billy knows that he could tell him a few things about the crucifix.

dirty picture: Weary has a dirty picture of a woman attempting sex with a Shetland pony. The man who took it claimed it was artistic, and the Greek pillars evoked mythology and classicism, but he was arrested and died in jail. The picture ends up in a porn shop in Time's Square that Billy visits when he escapes there to broadcast his Tralfamadorian knowledge.

Three Musketeers: Roland Weary considered himself and the two scouts the Three Musketeers and made up all sorts of heroic visions about them in his mind. He was furious when they ditched him and he blamed Billy.

Lion's Club: Billy belongs to the Lion's Club, and he often time-travels back to their meetings. He has been elected president of the Lion's Club.

'mopping up': The Germans that capture Roland Weary and Billy Pilgrim are involved in an operation called 'mopping up,' which consists of gathering any enemy soldiers not killed in battle.

black ghetto: Billy Pilgrim drives past the black ghetto one night and it reminds him of when he saw Dresden destroyed.

Spot: Spot is Billy Pilgrim's dog, who died.

Luxembourg: Billy Pilgrim's war adventure start in Luxembourg, where he is captured by German soldiers and eventually becomes a prisoner of war in Dresden.

boxcars: Billy Pilgrim and other American soldiers who are prisoners of war are loaded into boxcars. Each time the chain of boxcars stops at a prison camp, it leaves some boxcars there.

delousing station: The Americans are stripped naked when they get to the prison camp and their clothes are sent through a delousing station, where poison gas is sprayed on the clothes to kill all their lice and bacteria.

Hospital: Billy is hospitalized twice. The first chronological time, he flips out during a musical that the Englishmen put on to welcome them to the prison camp and is taken to their makeshift hospital with no real doctors. The second time, he is in a mental ward for non-violent patients in Ilium, where he has checked himself in voluntarily in his last year of optometry school.

Maniacs in the Fourth Dimension: Maniacs in the Fourth Dimension is the title of a science-fiction novel by Kilgore Trout in which crazy people cannot be diagnosed because their diseases only exist in the fourth dimension.

The Gospel from Outer Space: The Gospel from Outer Space is the title of a science-fiction novel by Kilgore Trout in which a flying saucer visitor says that the problem with the story of Jesus is that it teaches that it is only wrong to kill someone who is well-connected. He gives Earth a new gospel in which Jesus is a bum who God adopts, upon his death, as the Son of the Most Powerful Being in the Universe.

Gutless Wonder: Gutless Wonder is the title of a science-fiction novel by Kilgore Trout in which a robot is accepted as soon as he clears up his bad breath. Trout predicts napalm in this book. The robot has no conscience, so he can drop the toxins on the people below.

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