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by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five Freedom and Confinement Quotes

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

Quote #1

[Roland Weary] had been saving Billy's life for days, cursing him, kicking him, slapping him, making him move. It was absolutely necessary that cruelty be used, because Billy wouldn't do anything to save himself. Billy wanted to quit. He was cold, hungry, embarrassed, incompetent. He could scarcely distinguish between sleep and wakefulness now, on the third day, found no important differences, either, between walking and standing still. (2.15.1)

The definition of freedom in this book goes beyond freedom from POW camps. Here, Billy is completely under the power of Roland Weary, who insists on saving his life even though Billy wants to die. The problem with being under someone's power like that, even someone who is saving your life, is that you have no choice if he suddenly changes his mind. When Weary turns on Billy, Billy has absolutely no defense against him.

Quote #2

The [German] photographer wanted something more lively, though, a picture of an actual capture. So the guards staged one for him. They threw Billy into shrubbery. When Billy came out of the shrubbery, his face wreathed in goofy good will, they menaced him with their machine pistols, as though they were capturing him then. (3.7.3)

Again, Billy has no idea what he is in the middle of. He goes along with the Germans throwing him into a bush the same way he goes along with Weary in the preceding passages. Billy seems to have a gift for submission: he's just looking for people to tell him what to do.

Quote #3

The [Americans] came to a shed where a corporal with only one arm and one eye wrote the name and serial number of each prisoner in a big, red ledger. Everybody was legally alive now. Before they got their names and numbers in that book, they were missing in action and probably dead. (5.8.1)

There's a level of bureaucracy to this whole life, death, and freedom question that keeps coming up throughout the novel. Billy's squad is reported killed before they are even sent to Europe, and the British compound of the POW camp is kept amazingly well-stocked with supplies thanks to bureaucratic mix-ups. Billy only comes to back to "life" after going missing in action when the Germans log him as an official prisoner of war.

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