Slaughterhouse-Five

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Kilgore Trout Character Analysis

An obscure science fiction writer, Kilgore Trout writes novels full of good ideas and bad writing, and is in some sense a caricature of Kurt Vonnegut, whose early writings were exercises in science fiction. Trout’s novels, with their reference to aliens, Jesus and the cross, and alternate futures, make an impression on Eliot Rosewater and Billy Pilgrim, and many of their details become details of Billy’s life and Vonnegut’s narrative.

Kilgore Trout Quotes in Slaughterhouse-Five

The Slaughterhouse-Five quotes below are all either spoken by Kilgore Trout or refer to Kilgore Trout. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
War and Death Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dell edition of Slaughterhouse-Five published in 1991.
Chapter 8 Quotes

Trout, incidentally, had written a book about a money tree. It had twenty-dollar bills for leaves. Its flowers were government bonds . . . It attracted human beings who killed each other around the roots and made very good fertilizer. So it goes.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Kilgore Trout
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:

This is another of the metaphors Vonnegut uses to describe human behavior. Here, Vonnegut depicts the persuasive power of human greed. Humans, in this example, will always flock to the money tree - they will always be drawn to the bills that fall from it. Even though these bills will appeal to humans, they will not be distributed equally, but will instead cause the humans to fight with one another, and eventually to kill each other. But this is okay for the money tree, because the dead bodies of humans can then be used to fertilize the tree and encourage it to grow more. This continues the cycle, producing more of the tree, and more money, and more humans who wish to take that money.

Vonnegut therefore establishes a symbolic basis for the capitalist system that, in the years after the war, sweeps across the world. It is a system that makes people (superficially) happy, but also one that causes great discord and strife - the very strife that "fertilizes" the system and allows it to continue. 

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Kilgore Trout Character Timeline in Slaughterhouse-Five

The timeline below shows where the character Kilgore Trout appears in Slaughterhouse-Five. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
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
...checked in for alcohol abuse. Rosewater introduces Billy to the science fiction writings of Kilgore Trout, an author of cheap paperbacks. Both Rosewater and Billy “found life meaningless, partly because of... (full context)
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
Science Fiction and Aliens Theme Icon
Money and Success Theme Icon
...message of the original Gospels, which argue against hurting a “well-connected” person. Rosewater complains that Trout is a bad prose stylist; “only his ideas [are] good.” (full context)
Chapter 8
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
...the bombing takes place and 130,000 Dresdners are killed. Billy sleeps and thinks about Kilgore Trout, whom his daughter says she would like to kill, since he has planted strange ideas... (full context)
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
Science Fiction and Aliens Theme Icon
Money and Success Theme Icon
Billy first meets Trout when Trout is corralling his group of delivery boys (and one girl). Trout promises a... (full context)
Science Fiction and Aliens Theme Icon
Money and Success Theme Icon
Witness and Truth Theme Icon
Billy helps Trout deliver the papers of the boy who quits. Trout admits that he has only received... (full context)
War and Death Theme Icon
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
Witness and Truth Theme Icon
...why; he feels there is some “big secret” inside him of which he is unaware. Trout believes that Billy has seen through a “time window” but Billy denies this. Billy gives... (full context)
War and Death Theme Icon
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
Witness and Truth Theme Icon
Trout follows Billy around the party and compares Billy’s expression to that of a dog standing... (full context)
Chapter 9
War and Death Theme Icon
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
Science Fiction and Aliens Theme Icon
Witness and Truth Theme Icon
...his experiences with the Tralfamadorians. Billy goes into an adult bookstore because he sees four Trout novels in the front window. He reads the beginning of a book called The Big... (full context)
War and Death Theme Icon
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
Science Fiction and Aliens Theme Icon
Witness and Truth Theme Icon
...much money as they can while the aliens observe their behavior. In another of the Trout novels, a man builds a time machine and travels back to meet a twelve-year-old Jesus.... (full context)
War and Death Theme Icon
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
Science Fiction and Aliens Theme Icon
Witness and Truth Theme Icon
...him that adult materials are in the back of the shop. Billy continues reading the Trout book about Jesus and the time-machine; at the end, Jesus is killed, and the man... (full context)