Notes on Slaughterhouse-Five Themes

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Slaughterhouse-Five Topic Tracking: Anti-War

Chapter 1

Anti-War 1: The narrator has acknowledged that he is writing an anti-war book. The filmmaker told the narrator that he might as well write an anti-glacier book as an anti-war one, and the narrator, who has been in a war and knows its terrible power, understands this to mean that wars as impossible to stop as glaciers.

Anti-War 2: The narrator needed to express his reaction to the war, and he did so in all media, from crayons to his writing. When asked by a woman writer whether seeing a "squashed guy" bothered him, he said it didn't because he had seen worse in the war.

Anti-War 3: The narrator made friends with veterans, who he found shared his views of the war. He comments that those who hated the war the most were the ones who fought in it and experienced it firsthand.

Anti-War 4: When the narrator went to visit his war buddy Bernard V. O'Hare to talk about the war for his book, his wife Mary was acting strangely. Finally, Mary burst out with her anti-war sentiments. She knew that they were just babies when they went to the war, not brave men as they were forced to act like, and she feared that he would write a book glorifying war, making it seem like a good thing to do, so that people would make more war and someday her babies too would have to fight in it.

Anti-War 5: The narrator has taught his sons to be anti-war by telling them not to participate in or support it.

Chapter 2

Anti-War 6: The narrator was completely unprepared for the war he was thrust into. He was sent as a chaplain's assistant and ended up on enemy lines. The bizarre incident on the hill, in which he classifies soldiers who bring battle updates as "umpires" show his unpreparedness for the realities of war and death.

Anti-War 7: Roland Weary is a young man who is bitter about his whole life and takes it out on Billy. He is ridiculous and a failure, as his mis-shot at a tank left the rest of his troops dead, and Billy cannot even grasp the danger of his situation, as he keeps time-traveling away. They are weak and pathetic boys in the middle of a real war.

Chapter 3

Anti-War 8: Billy and Weary are captured by the Germans. The narrator takes all the romance and glory out of war by showing not the orgasm of victory, but the sloppy after-effects. He illustrates war as a ridiculous thing in which teenagers and old people use farm-dogs to round up boys in the snow and the enemy must stage photos to make themselves look proud and victorious.

Anti-War 9: The Marine at the Lion's Club meeting thinks of war as glorious and heroic, telling Billy that he should be proud that he has a son in the Green Berets in Vietnam. But the war left Billy not feeling like a proud hero, but a victim of uncontrollable weeping.

Chapter 4

Anti-War 10: Billy's ability to become unstuck in time allows him to watch the late movie backwards, which undoes all the harm and horror of the war and reverts Earth to a state of paradise.

Anti-War 11: The narrator describes the terrible conditions of the Americans who were loaded into the boxcars and the pathetically weak and ridiculous bodies of the prisoners of war, especially Billy and Paul Lazzaro.

Chapter 5

Anti-War 12: The Englishman sees that the war has broken Billy, to the extent that he does not even notice that he is on fire, and says that he is not a man anymore, but a broken kite.

Anti-War 13: Edgar Derby describes the horrible conditions he and the troops were subjected to before they surrendered. The narrator gives a painful and odd description of the bombing as terrible weather of knives and razors for Earthlings who others do not want to inhabit the earth any longer.

Anti-War 14: Billy encounters horrible conditions in the prison camp. Because the Americans had not eaten for days, even the good food that the Englishmen gave them wreaked havoc on their digestive systems and they all had horrible diarrhea as a result. It took them days to recover and eat normally after the Germans starved them on the trip to Dresden.

Chapter 6

Anti-War 15: The narrator poignantly describes how Edgar Derby is writing a letter to his wife in his head. From the beginning of the novel, though, it is clear, foreshadowed, that Derby will not make it through the war to see his family again.

Chapter 7

Anti-War 16: Billy still feels the effect of the war twenty years later, as he seems to think he has been injured in battle after the plane crash and whispers the address where he lived in Germany to the Austrian ski instructors who come to rescue him.

Chapter 8

Anti-War 17: Howard W. Campbell, Jr., an American turned Nazi-propagandist, is dressed in a ridiculous outfit, including a ten-gallon hat and a yellow body stocking. He preaches war and aggression, but Edgar Derby speaks up to him in the finest moment of his life.

Anti-War 18: During the celebration of his eighteenth wedding anniversary, the barbershop quartet reminds him of the guards at Dresden, and he has a terrible flashback and leaves his own party to cry.

Chapter 9

Anti-War 19: Bertram Copeland Rumfoord is a war-hawk. There is a contrast between his involvement and obsession in the war and his much-younger girlfriend Lily's inability to understand battles that happened before she was even born. Lily holds in her hands one of the most crucial documents in the history of war, perhaps in the history of the world, which is Truman's announcement of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan, and she cannot even read it.

Anti-War 20: Rumfoord tells Billy that the Air Force kept the Dresden massacre a secret because of the the "bleeding hearts." As far as he is concerned, weak people should die. Billy, since he is inconvenient and bothers him, is a non-person.

Anti-War 21: Montana makes a parallel between the obscenity of the pornographic movie she was in and the obscene violence of the scene of the shooting of Edgar Derby.

Anti-War 22: The narrator returns to Dresden with Bernard V. O'Hare. He sees the lit-up, alive city and cannot help but imagine dropping bombs on it, as did the Americans.

Anti-War 23: The prisoners of war are forced into the awful task of digging up the bodies of the dead in Dresden after it is bombed. The stench is awful, and one man dies from throwing up from the stench.

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