Slaughterhouse-Five

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Slaughterhouse-Five Symbol Analysis

Slaughterhouse-Five Symbol Icon
Although Slaughterhouse-Five as a physical space only appears in the novel in a few sections, it is a powerful symbol running through the entire work. It is, ironically, in this slaughterhouse where animals were killed and butchered that Billy, Derby, Lazzaro, and others are spared from the slaughter taking place outside: the firebombing of Dresden by Allied (US and UK) forces. But Billy is only protected by the slaughterhouse for so long: he eventually dies on Lazzaro’s order, in the 1970s, and his life between the war and his death is punctuated by violence and loss. Derby emerges from the slaughterhouse but is tried and executed for petty theft only days later. And Dresden, the larger “slaughterhouse” of Germany, becomes the novel's great and silent tragedy. Rumfoord, writing his own history, seeks more information about the bombings, as does Vonnegut as he researches his novel. Yet the more that is learned about the physical Slaughterhouse-Five, and about the Allied firebombings in Dresden, the more difficult it becomes to write about the horror of these events. Thus it has taken Vonnegut twenty-three years to compose his fragmented, time-shifting novel, and the book ends with the incineration of bodies that were not able to find a safe-haven from battle.
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Slaughterhouse-Five Symbol Timeline in Slaughterhouse-Five

The timeline below shows where the symbol Slaughterhouse-Five appears in Slaughterhouse-Five. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6
War and Death Theme Icon
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
...denture. The Americans are taken to their “home”: the fifth building of the Dresden Schlachthof-funf: Slaughterhouse-Five. (full context)
Chapter 7
War and Death Theme Icon
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
Witness and Truth Theme Icon
...a very young German soldier named Werner Gluck is leading Billy and Derby to the slaughterhouse kitchen. They stumble upon a group of 30-some young girls showering—Billy and Werner have never... (full context)
Chapter 8
War and Death Theme Icon
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
Witness and Truth Theme Icon
...the anti-American book read by the Germans in the POW camp, visits Billy’s group in Slaughterhouse-Five two days before the bombing of Dresden. He wishes to recruit Americans to fight with... (full context)
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 Americans, their guards, and Campbell go to a meat locker beneath the slaughterhouse. The first night nothing happens, but the second night the bombing takes place and 130,000... (full context)
War and Death Theme Icon
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
Witness and Truth Theme Icon
...flees upstairs. In his room he remembers—he does not “come unstuck”—the booming sounds above the slaughterhouse during the bombing, and the fact that everyone above was being killed. Everything in the... (full context)