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Free Study Guide Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

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FREE BOOK SUMMARY / BOOK REVIEW: SLAUGHTERHOUSE - FIVE

CHAPTER 8

Summary


Howard W. Campbell, the American turned Nazi, visits the Americans in Dresden, trying to recruit men for a military unit that fights only on the Russian front. Derby stands up to Campbell, berating him about his Nazi beliefs.

Billy travels to the future to 1964, when he meets Kilgore Trout, the science fiction writer. The two of them become friends. His daughter blames Trout for causing all of Billyís strange ideas.

At a wedding anniversary celebration, Billy becomes upset over the performance of a quartet of singing optometrists. At first, he is at a loss to explain his reaction. Later he recalls the night when Dresden was destroyed. The Americans from Slaughterhouse Five, along with four German guards, were hiding in the underground meat locker as the bombs dropped on the city. To Billy, the four guards looked like a silent film of a barbershop quartet. Billy remembers telling a pregnant Montana Wildhack about the horrible night. He described the destroyed city and how they, the only survivors, had to fight their way out of the rubble. They finally came to an inn, where a blind innkeeper gave them food and shelter.

Notes

Campbell, a traitorous American who became a Nazi, is described in this chapter. When he comes to see the American prisoners in Dresden, he is wearing an elaborate and outlandish costume, appearing much like a Lincoln outfit with a swastika. The irony of the image and the silent criticism of the traitor is intentional on Vonnegutís part. Though Campbell offers the hungry Americans food if they will follow him to fight on the Russian front, they refuse and criticize his traitorous ways.

It is very obvious that Billy has been deeply affected by the bombing of Dresden. He clearly remembers the horrible night when he was hiding in the basement of the slaughterhouse, listening to the bombs dropping above. He, the four German guards, and the other Americans in the basement were amongst the few survivors. He remembers thinking that the four guards were like a silent barbershop quartet; therefore, when a barbershop quartet sings at his wedding anniversary celebration, he becomes very upset and agitated. He leaves his own party to deal with his emotions in privacy.

Billy then remembers sharing the horrors of the Dresden bombing with Montana Wildhack, his mate in the Tralfamadore zoo. When he told her about it, he was able to give a matter-of-fact narration, contrasting sharply with his reaction at the party. It is obvious that Billy is sinking deeper and deeper into mental instability. His daughter blames all of his strange ideas on Trout, the science fiction writer with whom Billy has become friends.


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