by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse-Five Morality and Ethics Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Section.Paragraph)
Billy was not moved to protest the bombing of North Vietnam, did not shudder about the hideous things he himself had seen bombing do. He was simply having lunch with the Lions Club, of which he was past president now. (3.12.1)
Why might Billy be unable to apply his own experiences of massacres and death to contemporary politics? How does his belief that people have no free will affect his ability to learn any lessons from his past?
Only the candles and the soap were of German origin. They had a ghostly, opalescent similarity. The British had no way of knowing it, but the candles and the soap were made from the fat of rendered Jews and Gypsies and fairies and communists, and other enemies of the State. (5.14.4)
This is a particularly awful example of something that comes up again and again throughout the book: people often benefit from the suffering of others without knowing it. Another example is the suffering horses in Chapter 9 (see our "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" section). Can we hold the British officers responsible for using human soap and candles? Of course they don't know they are doing so – but they are also not bothering to find out. They are willing to stay ignorant and comfortable in their own compound, and none of them seem eager to disturb their status quo with the Germans.
The flaw in the Christ stories, said the visitor from outer space, was that Christ, who didn't look like much, was actually the Son of the Most Powerful Being in the Universe. Readers understood that, so, when they came to the crucifixion, they naturally thought, and Rosewater read out loud again:
Oh boy – they sure picked the wrong guy to lynch that time!
And that thought had a brother: "There are right people to lynch." Who? People not well connected. So it goes. (5.31.2-3)
Kilgore Trout often criticizes Christian theology for not doing enough to prevent human suffering. And despite having been a chaplain's assistant, Billy does not turn to Christ for comfort. What kinds of general comments or criticism might Slaughterhouse-Five be making about the Christian faith? What does Vonnegut propose in its place?