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Slaughterhouse-Five

Slaughterhouse-Five

by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five Chapter 1, Section 4 Summary

  • The narrator tells us that he's outlined this book on Dresden a million times.
  • The prettiest outline ever is the one he makes on the back of a piece of wallpaper with his kid's crayons. All the characters get different colors (red, blue, yellow); the yellow line stops when his character dies. The firestorm itself is a bar of orange across the page; all the colors of the people who survive continue on the other side.
  • Where all the lines stop is at a field where thousands of prisoners of war are about to be released.
  • There's an exchange going on: non-Soviet troops (Americans, Western Europeans, Canadians, South Africans, etc.) are being traded for Soviet troops (Russians, Poles, Yugoslavians).
  • Remember, 1945, when World War II ends, is when the Cold War between the Soviets, the U.S., and Western Europe really starts up. After Germany's surrender, East Germany (of which Dresden is part) becomes part of the Soviet bloc. So both the capitalist and communist countries want to make sure that none of their troops end up on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain.
  • The narrator keeps a souvenir: a Luftwaffe (German air force) saber.
  • A bunch of other guys keep things too, that they've gotten out of the burned rubble of Dresden.
  • All the Allied prisoners of war wind up in a rest camp in France.
  • The narrator heads home, gets married, and has kids.
  • Now his kids are grown, and he's just an old guy.
  • He likes to make phone calls late at night to people he used to know a long time ago – in this case, girlfriends.
  • He lets his dog in or out. He tells the dog, Sandy, that he likes him.
  • He'll turn on talk radio coming out of Boston and New York.
  • Occasionally he thinks about the time he spent after the war studying anthropology at the University of Chicago. There, he learned that there is absolutely no difference between people.
  • He remembers that, before his dad died, he pointed out that none of the narrator's books have villains. The narrator told his father that that's something he learned in college, after the war.

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