Skip Navigation

Submitted Literature

Slaughterhouse-Five

By Kurt Vonnegut

Review

Described as one of the great Anti-War novels, Vonnegut examines PTSD in the context of war, and psychosis in terms of dislocations in time and space travel, combined in a seamless merging of postmodernity, science fiction and pathography. 

Key Themes:

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Postmodern Madness
  • Psychosis

Significant Quotes / Pages

23 – “Listen:

Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.

Billy had gone to sleep a senile widower and awakened on his wedding day.  He has walked through a door in 1955 and come out through another one in 1941.  He has gone back through that door to find himself in 1963.  He has seen his birth and death many times, he says, and pays random visits to all the events in between. 

He says.

Billy is spastic in time, has no control over where he is going next, and the trips aren’t necessarily fun.  He is in a constant state of stage fright, he says, because he never knows what part of his life he is going to have to act in next.”

 

101 – “Rosewater was twice as smart as Billy, but he and Billy were dealing with similar crises in similar ways.  They had both found life meaningless, partly because of what they had seen in the war.  Rosewater, for instance, had shot a fourteen-year-old fireman, mistaking him for a German soldier.  So it goes.  And Billy had seen the greatest massacre in European history, which was the fire bombing of Dresden.  So it goes. 

So they were trying to re-invent themselves and their universe.  Science fiction was a big help.

[…]  Another time Billy heard Rosewater say to a psychiatrist, ‘I think you guys are going to have to come up with a lot of wonderful new lies, or people just aren’t going to want to go on living.’”

 

 

 

137 – “The animal magnetism was coming from behind him.  If Billy had had to guess as to the source, he would have said that there was a vampire bat hanging upside down on the wall behind him.

Billy moved down towards the foot of his cot before turning to look at whatever it was.  He didn’t want the animal to drop into his face and maybe claw his eyes out or bite off his big nose.  Then he turned.  The source of the magnetism really did resemble a bat.  It was Billy’s impresario’s coat with the fur collar.  It was hanging from a nail.

Billy now backed toward it again, looking at it over his shoulder, feeling the magnetism increase.  Then he faced it, kneeling on his cot, dared to touch it here and there.  He was seeking the exact source of the radiations.

He found two small sources, two lumps an inch apart and hidden in the lining.  Once was shaped like a pea.  The other was shaped like a tiny horseshoe.  Billy received a message carried by the radiations.  He was told not to find out what the lumps were.  He was advised to be content with knowing that they could work miracles for him, provided he did not insist on learning their nature.  That was alright with Billy Pilgrim.  He was grateful.  He was glad.”

Reference: Kurt, Vonnegut. 1969. Slaughterhouse-Five. Dell, 1991

Reviewer

- Charley Baker
Date Review Submitted: Thursday 16th April 2009