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De taal ervan is Engels en het aantal woorden bedraagt 1930 woorden.



slaughterhouse-five; or the children’s crusade, a duty dance with death

Publisher, place and year of edition:

Dell Publishing, New York 1971

Author, short biography and bibliography, dedication:

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was born in 1922. He is an author of

numerous novels and short stories, two plays and several works of

non-fiction. Most of his books are affected by his war experience

(Hocus Pocus, Mother Night etc.), although in some novels it is

really hard to identify. In Slaughterhouse-Five, however, the war

experiences are obvious from the beginning.

All his books are strongly satirical and ironical (Vonnegut

often uses very dark humor), funny and extremely

wise. They mostly have a very poor plot (or none at all).

Kurt Vonnegut also very often uses science fiction and comic book

formulas (quick action, short dialogues etc.), which usually puts

his books onto bookstore shelves marked "sci-fi". Vonnegut,

however, doesn't take the sci-fi elements with the same

seriousness as the other sci-fi writers, and that probably

makes the difference between his works and science fiction.

In Slaughterhouse-Five, many characters from his previous

books show up (Mr. Rosewater, Kilgore Trout, the Tralfamadorians

etc.) The reader can also recognize some themes that appeared in

Vonnegut's earlier books (War vs. Love; Life vs. human

understanding etc). Some critiques described Slaughterhouse-Five

as a summary of his previous five novels.



''In Slaughterhouse Five, -- Or the Children's Crusade, Vonnegut finally delivers a complete treatise on the World War II bombing of Dresden. The main character, Billy Pilgrim, is a very young infantry scout who is captured in the Battle of the Bulge and quartered in a Dresden slaughterhouse where he and other prisoners are employed in the production of a vitamin supplement for pregnant women. During the February 13, 1945, firebombing by Allied aircraft, the prisoners take shelter in an underground meat locker. When they emerge, the city has been levelled and they are forced to dig corpses out of the rubble. The story of Billy Pilgrim is the story of Kurt Vonnegut who was captured and survived the firestorm in which 135,000 German civilians perished, more than the number of deaths in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

Point of view:

The book has two narratives. One is personal and the other

is impersonal. The latter is the story of Billy Pilgrim who,

similarly to the author, fights in World War Two, is taken

prisoner by the Germans and witnesses the fire-storming of


The whole narration is written in the past tense, so that the

reader can not identify where the author's starting point is.

The personal narrative is Vonnegut's own story about

writing a book about the worst experience of his life. It appears

mostly in the first chapter, and describes his temptation to

write a book about Dresden and his efforts to finally produce it.

The personal view also appears in the tenth (and last) chapter.

This can assure the reader of particular identity of

the author with Billy.


The whole book is organized in the same way Billy moves

in time. It consists of numerous sections and paragraphs strung

together in no chronological order.


Vonnegut manages to tell the reader many things and it is

hard to decide, what exactly is the main theme. It is a novel

about war, about the cruelty and violence done in war, about

people and their nature, their selfishness, about love, humanity,

regeneration, motion, and death

The first theme of Slaughterhouse-Five, and perhaps the

most obvious, is the war and its contrast with love, beauty,

humanity, innocence etc. Slaughterhouse-Five, like Vonnegut's

previous books, manages to tell us that war is bad for us and

that it would be better for us to love eachother. To find the

war's contrast with love is quite difficult, because the book

doesn't talk about any couple that was cruelly torn apart by the

war (Billy didn't seem to love his wife very much, for example.)

Vonnegut expresses it very lightly, uses the word "love" very rarely

An interesting contrast in Vonnegut's books is the one

between men and women. Male characters are often engaging in

fights and wars, and females try to prevent them from it. The

woman characters are often mentally strong, have strong will, and

are very humane and loving. A good example is Vonnegut's dialogue

in the first chapter, when he talks with his old friend O'Hare in

front of O'Hare's wife:

Then she turned to me, let me see how angry she

was, and that the anger was for me. She had been talking

to herself, so what she said was a fragment of a much

larger conversation. 'You were just babies then!' she


'What?' I said.

'You were just babies in the war--like the ones


I nodded that this was true. We had been foolish

virgins in the war, right at the end of childhood.

'But you're not going to write it that way, are

you.' This wasn't a question. It was an accusation.

'I - I don't know,' I said.

'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, so we'll have a lot more of them.

And they'll be fought by babies like the babies


So then I understood. It was war that made her so

angry. She didn't want her babies or anybody else's

babies killed in wars. And she thought wars were partly

encouraged by books and movies. (p. 14-15)

Another place where Vonnegut expresses the previously mentioned

qualities of women is the part where Billy becomes "slightly

unstuck in time" and watches the war movie backwards:

When the bombers got back to their base, the

steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped

back to the United States of America, where factories

were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders,

separating the dangerous contents into minerals.

Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. (


In reality, of course, the women were building the weapons

instead of dismantling them.

The most often expressed theme of the book, in my opinion,

is that we, people, are "bugs in amber." The phrase first appears

when Billy is kidnapped by the Tralfamadorian flying saucer:


'Welcome aboard, Mr. Pilgrim,' said the

loudspeaker. 'Any questions?'

Billy licked his lips, thought a while, inquired

at last: 'Why

'That is a very Earthling question to ask, Mr.

Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything?

Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs

trapped in amber?'

'Yes.' Billy, in fact, had a paperweight in his

office which was a blob of polished amber with three

lady-bugs embedded in it.

'Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the

amber of this moment. There is no why.' (p.76-77).

Main message:

As you noticed, the book has different messages; everybody

may see something else as its main meaning. I think that Vonnegut

wanted to tell us, the readers, that no matter what happens, we

should retain our humanity. We should not let anybody or anything

reign upon our personalities, be it a god, be it a politician or

anybody else. We should be ourselves - human and humane beings.

I looked through the Gideon Bible in my motel

room for tales of great destruction. The sun was risen

upon the Earth when Lot entered into Zo-ar, I read. Then

the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone

and fire from Lord out of Heaven; and He overthrew those

cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of

the cities, and that which greaw upon the ground.

So it goes.

Those were vile people in both those cities, as

is well known. The world was better off without them.

And Lot's wife, of course, was told not to look

back where all those people and their homes had been.

But she did look back, and I love her for that, because

it was so human.

So she was turned to a pillar of salt. So it

goes, (p.21-22).
Andere boeken van deze auteur:

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