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by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five Men and Masculinity Quotes

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

Quote #4

The Tralfamadorians tried to give Billy clues that would help him to imagine sex in the invisible dimension. They told him that there could be no Earthling babies without male homosexuals. There could be babies without female homosexuals. There couldn't be babies without women over sixty-five years old. There could be babies without men over sixty-five. There couldn't be babies without other babies who had lived an hour or less after birth. And so on. (5.41.3)

We are really interested in this whole idea that babies need more than just one man and one woman to survive. They depend on a network of seven genders in ways we Earthlings can't understand, because we're blinded by our limited, three-dimensional view of the world. For one thing, it implies that there is no such thing as a superfluous or extra person: each individual human being is vital. Here is yet more evidence that Vonnegut is trying to counteract the idea that war or killing might sometimes be necessary.

Quote #5

A German major came in [to the camp hospital] now. He considered the Englishmen as close friends. He visited them nearly every day, played games with them, lectured to them on German history, played their piano, gave them lessons in conversational German. He told them often that, if it weren't for their civilized company, he would go mad. His English was splendid. (5.55.8)

The German major, like the Englishmen, sees very little real action outside their prison camp, so he has the luxury of befriending the English soldiers. They can all be gentlemen together. The reality of war is much crueler, as Billy learns when he sees the Dresden firestorm. These German-English relations seem to arise from an older ideal of war, in which both sides depend on mutual respect. By contrast, all of the bombing that allows the American Air Force to torch Dresden from the sky is the result of mutual ignorance, in which neither side is willing to admit to the humanity of the other.

Quote #6

Montana was naked, and so was Billy, of course. He had a tremendous wang, incidentally. You never know who'll get one. (5.61.2)

Throughout the book we've been told that Billy is a totally pathetic specimen of manhood. And yet, check it out—he has a huge penis. Of course, Tralfamadore may just be Billy's fantasy land, so who knows, the penis may just be part of the dream.

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