Slaughterhouse-Five

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Slaughterhouse-Five Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Billy wakes from his morphine slumber in the POW camp. He feels an “animal magnetism” behind him and thinks it’s a bat; it turns out to be the old, small coat from before, in which Billy finds two small lumps, one like a horseshoe, one like a pea. The Englishman who injured Lazzaro comes to see how Lazzaro is doing. Lazzaro curses him and tells a story of how he killed a dog who bit him by grinding up bits of a clock spring and putting it in the dog’s meat. Lazzaro, later, does not appreciate the firebombing of Dresden, however, because he only exacts revenge on those who “have had it coming.”
Lazzaro’s gruesome stories of revenge nevertheless have a code of their own: Lazzaro believes he must kill only those responsible for wronging him. The bombing in Dresden, on the other hand, will take the lives of innocent civilians, who never “did anything” to the Allies in the first place; this means they are not a legitimate military target. In this way Lazzaro’s views on Dresden appear more ethical than the US Army’s.
Themes
War and Death Theme Icon
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
Lazzaro says that, one day, he will have the Englishman who injured him shot. He also promises that, as Weary requested, he will have Billy shot after the war as well. Because Billy can travel in time, he knows this is in fact how he will die. He records a message saying he will die on February 13th, 1976, when the US has been heavily damaged by another large war. Just before his death he is in Chicago, giving a speech to a large crowd about Tralfamadore and time. He announces to the crowd that he will be shot soon. He is killed by a laser gun and experiences death as “a violet light and a hum.”
A peak into the future. At this point Billy has become a national success-story, a speaker on the nature of time and death. In fulfillment of his own teachings, Billy announces that his death is simply a part of his life, and the “violent light and hum” are all that are perceptible of what is supposed to be a horrific event.
Themes
War and Death Theme Icon
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
Science Fiction and Aliens Theme Icon
Money and Success Theme Icon
Witness and Truth Theme Icon
Billy, Lazzaro, and Derby go to the theater in the camp, where an election is to be held among the American prisoners to choose a leader. Billy, before falling asleep on the floor, sees a pair of silver Cinderella boots left over from the performance; he takes them and they fit. An Englishman tells the POWs that they are being sent to Dresden, a city without “war industries” and therefore not a target for bombing, and a beautiful cultural center. Derby is elected leader of POWs although most Americans are sleeping or uninterested. They are taken to railcars bound for Dresden. Billy comes upon the hobo, still dead. Someone has taken the hobo’s boots.
Another instance of irony in the novel: Dresden was considered “off-limits” for bombings because it did not produce material necessary for war. This makes the Allies’ bombing of the city far more difficult to justify: it appears to have been done simply to demoralize the Germans by destroying a very beautiful city. Derby is elected leader of the American contingent but his position carries no power—indeed, it does nothing to save him from his ultimate fate, death by firing squad.
Themes
War and Death Theme Icon
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
Witness and Truth Theme Icon
Billy and the Americans arrive in Dresden. Someone remarks that the city resembles Oz. This man is Vonnegut, who again says “that was me.” Eight Germans come to pick up the Americans, and finding Billy in his strange blue Cinderella costume and Lazzaro with his broken arm, they are reassured by the Americans’ weakness and disarray. Billy and the others march through the city and marvel at its beauty. Billy, because he can travel through time, knows the city will be destroyed in a month, but he enjoys his walk regardless. A German surgeon asks Billy, angrily, if he likes dressing up and making mockery of war. Billy pulls the two small bits out of his coat: a diamond and a piece of denture. The Americans are taken to their “home”: the fifth building of the Dresden Schlachthof-funf: Slaughterhouse-Five.
Vonnegut again inserts himself into the narrative, saying that he was the one to link Dresden and Oz, two magical, beautiful cities. This passage also introduces the actual Slaughterhouse-Five, which will become the POWs’ home for only a short while, and which embodies an irony central to the book: the slaughterhouse where animals are killed is exactly the place where the Americans are spared from the slaughter taking place all around them.
Themes
War and Death Theme Icon
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
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