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by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. We here at Shmoop think that, factually speaking, Billy's trips to Tralfamadore are at least questionable and possibly outright hallucinations. Does it make a difference to your understanding of the philosophy of Slaughterhouse-Five if you read Billy's experiences on Tralfamadore literally as alien abductions? If Slaughterhouse-Five is a straight-up science-fiction novel, do we get the same lessons on fate and free will?
  2. All of the women characters in this book (except Mary O'Hare) are either portrayed as dumb (Lily Rumfoord, Maggie White, and Valencia Pilgrim) or obnoxious (Barbara Pilgrim and Nancy the reporter). Are ladies getting short shrift here? Do the guys come off any better? And what makes Mary O'Hare so special?
  3. There's the time-travel and then there's the alien abduction. Billy comes unstuck in time in 1944 and is then abducted by aliens in 1967, he says. Why are these two separate events? What does the time-travel do for Billy's character that the abduction doesn't?
  4. Slaughterhouse-Five blurs the line between truth and fiction with the biographical details in Vonnegut's own life that keep creeping into the fictional parts of the story. A lot of other real people's words also make it into the novel. For example, there are quotes from poet Theodore Roethke (1.20.1) and the Gideon Bible (1.21.1). Why does Vonnegut quote so much? How do these quotes challenge our definition of Slaughterhouse-Five as a novel? Which chapters seem to quote the most, and why?
  5. Vonnegut refers to the Vietnam War and the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. While the content of the novel clearly focuses on World War II, how is Slaughterhouse-Five also a book about America in the 1960s?

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