Notes on Slaughterhouse-Five Themes

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Slaughterhouse-Five Topic Tracking: Humor

Preface

Humor 1: The preface, though it discusses the fact that the book will be about war, is silly and informal, a run-on sentence, with the narrator confessing he smokes too much and bringing up the fantastic subject of flying saucers.

Chapter 1

Humor 2: Amidst the discussion of the death of the cab driver's mother and the hard times under Communism, the narrator thinks of a lewd, funny limerick about an old man and his penis.

Humor 3: The narrator calmly explains the ridiculous: that he has to believe in clocks and calendars because he is an earthling.

Chapter 2

Humor 4: Billy is in a ridiculous situation: He can time-travel, but he cannot control where or when he will travel to.

Humor 5: The Tralfamdorians are described as two-foot tall toilet plungers with tiny little hands and advanced knowledge.

Humor 6: The narrator pokes fun at Billy's overanxious daughter Barbara, calling her a bitchy flibbertigibbet and saying she has legs like an Edwardian Grand Piano.

Humor 7: Weary is a silly and pathetic figure who takes himself and the war very seriously. He is overzealous, everyone ditches him, and he always smells like bacon.

Humor 8: The dirty picture which caused such a scandal is actually quite silly and melodramatic: A woman attempts sex with a Shetland pony against a backdrop of red velvet and Grecian columns.

Humor 9: When he is lying in the ditch in the snow, Billy has a fantastic hallucination that he is dancing in white sweatsocks on a ballroom floor.

Chapter 3

Humor 10: The Germans try to get a look of shock and horror on Billy's face for a propaganda picture, but what they really capture is a goofy smile, since he has time-traveled back to the Lion's Club.

Humor 11: While they are in a prisoner's march after being captured, Billy is bobbing up and down like and excited child as if he is watching the circus. What he really is seeing is things like a colonel and a whore.

Chapter 4

Humor 12: Billy is able to reverse the late movie so that the bloody and violent war turns into an ideal and naïve fantasy where bombers suck up fire and shrapnel and everyone reverts to paradise and the two perfect people, Adam and Eve.

Chapter 5

Humor 13: The coat that the Germans give Billy is ridiculous. It is made for a small monkey, with a fur collar like a dead animal.

Humor 14: Billy thought he was being all suave and well-spoken, telling the Tralfamadorians of Earth's awesome power, but he has really said something incredibly stupid. They know that the universe will end not because of Earthlings, but when they are trying a new jet fuel and accidentally blow the universe up.

Chapter 6

Humor 15: Billy's scavenged materials to keep warm leave him dressed in his ridiculous coat, silver boots, and a red toga.

Humor 16: The people of Dresden see the pathetic, awkwardly dressed Americans as some sort of parade. It is a varation on the dullness of their lives as they have been during the war years.

Chapter 8

Humor 17: Kilgore Trout is a hit at the party, where the pretentious and wealthy people talk to him enthusiastically because they think he is a famous writer. He is talking to Maggie, the not-so-bright wife of an optometrist, when he laughs at his own joke and spits fish eggs onto her cleavage.

Chapter 9

Humor 18: Billy makes a ridiculous figure in his toga, silver boots, and the silver sword he treasures, which is a relic of the Nazis. Yet he is content as a sleeping baby as he sits in the sun while his companions plunder Dresden.

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