Slaughterhouse-Five

Kurt Vonnegut Character Analysis

The author of the novel, Kurt Vonnegut was also taken as a POW during the Battle of the Bulge and survived the firebombing of Dresden in Slaughterhouse-Five. In the opening and closing chapters of the novel Vonnegut details his struggle in writing the novel, and his hope that he might make sense of the bombing’s carnage—and produce a “big hit.” At several points in the story Vonnegut inserts himself into the narrative, claiming that he was there, a witness to the events of the novel.

Kurt Vonnegut Quotes in Slaughterhouse-Five

The Slaughterhouse-Five quotes below are all either spoken by Kurt Vonnegut or refer to Kurt Vonnegut. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dell edition of Slaughterhouse-Five published in 1991.
Chapter 1 Quotes

All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true. One guy I knew really was shot in Dresden for taking a teapot that wasn’t his. Another guy I knew really did threaten to have his personal enemies killed by hired gunmen after the war. And so on. I’ve changed all the names.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker)
Related Symbols: Slaughterhouse-Five
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

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“Well, I know,” she said. “You’ll pretend you were men instead of babies, and you’ll be played in the movies by Frank Sinatra and John Wayne or some of those other glamorous, war-loving, dirty old men. And war will look just wonderful . . . .”

Related Characters: Mary O’Hare (speaker), Kurt Vonnegut
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

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I have told my sons that they are not under any circumstances to take part in massacres, and that the news of massacres of enemies is not to fill them with satisfaction or glee.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker)
Related Symbols: Slaughterhouse-Five
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 2 Quotes

Listen: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Billy Pilgrim
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

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He didn’t look like a solider at all. He looked like a filthy flamingo.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Billy Pilgrim
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:

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Five German soldiers and a police dog on a leash were looking down into the bed of the creek. The soldiers’ blue eyes were filled with a bleary civilian curiosity as to why one American would try to murder another one so far from home, and why the victim should laugh.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Billy Pilgrim, Roland Weary
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 3 Quotes

But lying on the black ice there, Billy stared into the patina of the corporal’s boots, saw Adam and Eve in the golden depths. They were naked. They were so innocent, so vulnerable, so eager to behave decently. Billy Pilgrim loved them.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Billy Pilgrim
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

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Human beings in there were excreting into steel helmets, which were passed to the people at the ventilators . . . . The human beings also passed canteens, which guards would fill with water. When food came in, the human beings were quiet and trusting and beautiful. They shared.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker)
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 4 Quotes

American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses, took off backwards from an airfield in England. Over France, a few German fighter planes flew at them backwards, sucked bullets and shell fragments from some . . . . The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames. . . . Over France, though, German fighters came up again, made everything and everybody as good as new.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker)
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

But you’re right: each clump of symbols is a brief, urgent message—describing a situation, a scene . . . . There isn’t any particular relationship between all the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker)
Page Number: 88
Explanation and Analysis:

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The British had no way of knowing it, but the candles and the soap were made from the fat of rendered Jews and Gypsies and fairies and communists, and other enemies of the State. So it goes.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker)
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

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And Billy had seen the greatest massacre in European history, which was the fire-bombing of Dresden. So it goes. So they were trying to re-invent themselves and their universe. Science fiction was a big help.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Billy Pilgrim, Eliot Rosewater
Related Symbols: Slaughterhouse-Five
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 6 Quotes

Somebody behind him in the boxcar said, “Oz.” That was I. That was me. The only other city I’d ever seen was Indianapolis, Indiana.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Billy Pilgrim
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 7 Quotes

Tralfamadorians, of course, saw that every creature and plant in the Universe is a machine. It amuses them that so many Earthlings are offended by the idea of being machines.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Tralfamadorians
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:

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Billy thrust it into the vat, turned it around and around, making a gooey lollipop. He thrust it into his mouth . . . and then every cell in Billy’s body shook him with ravenous gratitude and applause.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Billy Pilgrim
Page Number: 160
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 8 Quotes

He spoke of the brotherhood between the American and the Russian people, and how those two nations were going to crush the disease of Nazism, which wanted to infect the whole world. The air-raid sirens of Dresden howled mournfully.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Edgar Derby
Page Number: 164
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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The rest of the guards had, before the raid began, gone to the comforts of their own homes in Dresden. They were all being killed with their families.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker)
Related Symbols: Slaughterhouse-Five
Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 9 Quotes

The staff thought Rumfoord was a hateful old man, conceited and cruel. He often said to them . . . that people who were weak deserved to die. Whereas the staff, of course, was devoted to the idea that weak people should be helped as much as possible, that nobody should die.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Bertram C. Rumfoord
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:

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Another one said that people couldn’t read well enough anymore to turn print into exciting situations in their skulls . . . .

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker)
Page Number: 206
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 10 Quotes

If what Billy Pilgrim learned from the Tralfamadorians is true, that we will all live forever, no matter how dead we may sometimes seem to be, I am not overjoyed. Still—if I am going to spend eternity visiting this moment and that, I’m grateful that so many of those moments are nice.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Billy Pilgrim, Tralfamadorians
Page Number: 211
Explanation and Analysis:

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“If you’re ever in Cody, Wyoming,” I said to him lazily, “just ask for Wild Bob.”

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Wild Bob
Page Number: 212
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Birds were talking. One bird said to Billy Pilgrim, “Poo-tee-weet?

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Billy Pilgrim
Page Number: 215
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Kurt Vonnegut Character Timeline in Slaughterhouse-Five

The timeline below shows where the character Kurt Vonnegut appears in Slaughterhouse-Five. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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Kurt Vonnegut, the author and narrator, begins by stating that the story he is about to tell... (full context)
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Since returning from Europe in 1945, Vonnegut has spent 23 years attempting to write a book about the firebombing of Dresden, which... (full context)
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Vonnegut flashes back to his first attempt, earlier in the composition of Slaughterhouse-Five, at contacting O’Hare,... (full context)
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Vonnegut details an attempt to map the plot of his novel, which is becoming complex and... (full context)
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Vonnegut describes his life since the war. He was an anthropology student at the University of... (full context)
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Vonnegut returns to the story of his meeting with O’Hare, at O’Hare’s house in Pennsylvania, in... (full context)
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Vonnegut and O’Hare pick up a book on the crusades and read about the actual Children’s... (full context)
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Vonnegut reads passages from a book on Dresden in the O’Hare’s guest bedroom. Dresden was under... (full context)
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Vonnegut and his daughters leave the O’Hares and visit the 1964 World’s Fair in New York,... (full context)
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En route to Germany, where he is to meet O’Hare in 1967, Vonnegut’s plane is delayed and he feels that time has slowed to a stop. Vonnegut describes... (full context)
Chapter 2
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...in time,” meaning he can move freely from one period of his life to another. Vonnegut briefly details Billy’s life: he was born in 1922 in Ilium, New York. He studied... (full context)
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...the funeral of his father, who was killed in a hunting accident. About the death, Vonnegut writes the phrase he will use after every senseless death in the novel: “So it... (full context)
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Pilgrim is leaning against a tree; this, according to Vonnegut, is when he “first comes unstuck in time.” He is learning to swim with his... (full context)
Chapter 3
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...to notice. Wild Bob says they will be reunited at his house in Cody, Wyoming. Vonnegut says that this happened, and that he and Bernard O’Hare were there to witness it. (full context)
Chapter 4
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...small, frozen coat. He passes through a “de-lousing station” where he is asked to strip; Vonnegut remarks that this is the same protocol used when Pilgrim is abducted and taken to... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...together. Valencia says she feels Billy is “full of secrets.” Billy imagines an epitaph that Vonnegut thinks also describes himself: “Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.” Valencia asks Billy about Derby’s... (full context)
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...One man cries that he has passed everything except his brains, then passed his brains. Vonnegut steps in to say that that man is he, Vonnegut. Billy wanders back to Valencia... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 9
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Vonnegut explains that the book’s epigraph, from a Christmas carol, describes Billy’s silent crying in later... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Vonnegut opens the last chapter by saying that Robert Kennedy was shot two nights ago (in... (full context)
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Vonnegut says that, if Billy’s ideas about time are true, he is happy that he has... (full context)
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...notebook which states that 7 billion people will live on earth in the year 2000. Vonnegut says he supposes all those people “will want dignity.” Pilgrim is back in 1945, being... (full context)
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...the horse-cart and horses he will use to rummage for supplies. “Birds were talking,” writes Vonnegut, and “one bird said to Billy Pilgrim, ‘Poo-tee-weet?’” (full context)