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by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five Foolishness and Folly Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Section.Paragraph)

Quote #1

Billy was preposterous—six feet and three inches tall, with a chest and shoulders like a box of kitchen matches. He had no helmet, no overcoat, no weapon, and no boots. On his feet were cheap, low-cut civilian shoes which he had bought for his father's funeral. Billy had lost a heel, which made him bob up-and-down-up-and-down. The involuntary dancing, up-and-down, up-and-down, made his hip joints sore. (2.13.4)

Oh, hey, check it out—a reference to the title! Or anyway, the subtitle ("A Duty-Dance With Death"). Billy Pilgrim is completely, totally unprepared for war, with his poor physique, lack of gear, and messed-up shoes. But still, he is going because he has to: his dance with death has begun. And this dance is involuntary. As a soldier, Billy has no choice but to follow his orders, no matter how utterly ill-equipped he is for the battlefield. Billy may look like an idiot—or "preposterous," as the narrator calls him—but the real idiots are the guys back home who deployed him to the front lines of a war.

Quote #2

Billy stood there politely, giving the marksman another chance. It was his addled understanding of the rules of warfare that the marksman should be given a second chance. The next shot missed Billy's kneecaps by inches, going end-on-end, from the sound of it. (2.14.2)

Again, we cannot say enough about what a complete idiot Billy is. He is so naive that he doesn't know better than to get out of the way of a bullet coming in his direction. Billy wants to do the right thing, but he is so utterly turned around that he has completely lost track of what that "right thing" might be.

Quote #3

Weary told Billy about neat tortures he'd read about or seen in the movies or heard on the radio—about other neat tortures he himself had invented. (2.18.3)

Behind enemy lines, trying to escape German soldiers, Weary spends his energy telling Billy about torture. While Billy may be terribly naive, he at least is aware of his own vulnerability to the war going on around him.

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