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Slaughterhouse-Five

Slaughterhouse-Five

by Kurt Vonnegut

Freedom and Confinement Quotes Page 4

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Quote #10

Poor old Derby, the doomed high school teacher, lumbered to his feet for what was probably the finest moment in his life. There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters. But old Derby was a character now. . . .

Derby raised his head, called Campbell a snake. He corrected that. He said that snakes couldn't help being snakes, and that Campbell, who could help being what he was, was something much lower than a snake or a rat – or even a blood-filled tick. (8.4.1-2)

Derby is one of the very few characters in the novel, with the possible exception of post-Tralfamadore Billy, who actually takes some initiative. He is in captivity, just like all the other men in this POW camp, but his mind is still actively considering right and wrong. It is this taking of initiative that makes Derby seem like a real person, or a "character."

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