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Free Study Guide Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

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This chapter returns to the German prison. Paul Lazzaro tells the Englishman who has broken his arm that he is going to have him killed after the war. He informs Billy that he will do the same to him, in revenge for Roland’s death. Billy knows the truth of Paul’s words. As a time-traveler, he has seen his own future death and knows that he will be shot by a man hired by Paul.

The American prisoners are told that they are going to Dresden to do hard labor. They travel there by train; upon their arrival, they are amazed to see the beauty of the city. They are taken to the Dresden slaughterhouse, called Slaughterhouse Five, which will be their residence. Billy envisions himself wearing a blue toga and silver shoes there.


Paul Lazzaro is obsessed with revenge, wanting to kill the man who broke his arm and to kill Billy, whom he blames for Roland’s death. Because of his time travels, Billy knows that he will, indeed, be killed by a man hired by Lazzaro. Although Lazzaro seeks personal revenge, he voices strong criticism of the destruction of Dresden, an innocent civilian city, and hates that “innocent bystanders” are harmed in the fighting. The fact that Lazzaro, who is more bestial than human, condemns what he sees in Dresden points out the depth of the horror and inhumanity of war.

The Americans arrive in Dresden and are placed under the control of eight inept German soldiers, who have been sworn into the army only the day before. They are marched to the streets to their new residence, “Slaughterhouse Five.” Billy envisions himself there in a blue toga, silver shoes, and a muff, a comical figure in a tragic situation.



Twenty-five years after the war, Billy is flying to a convention with other optometrists from Ilium. Although he knows that the plane will crash, he does not say anything about it, for he does not want to sound foolish. When the plane does crash, everybody is killed except Billy and the co-pilot. Billy sustains a serious head injury and is taken to a hospital, where he is operated on by a famous brain surgeon. He remains unconscious for two days after the operation; during this forty-eight hours, he has many time travels. He goes back to Dresden, to the time when he, Werner Gluck, and Edgar Derby accidentally come across naked German girls in a communal shower. He also visits a malt syrup factory and watches the Americans at work there.


Before it happens, Billy is aware of the plane crash that is going to take place; but he does or says nothing about it. Never daring to interfere with his future, he never makes an effort to change the flow of events, event if they are tragic. Only he and the co-pilot survive the crash, and Billy must undergo brain surgery. Later, his daughter will blame Billy’s strange behavior on his head injury and subsequent brain surgery.

When Billy travels back in time to Dresden in this chapter, he realizes that he, Derby, and their young German guard were all very unlikely soldiers; but war drags in all types of men, usually against their wills. As the war drags on, many of the “real soldiers” are killed. As a result, stranger and stranger men are killed to be soldiers. Billy acknowledges that the three of them are, indeed, a motley trio.

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