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by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five Suffering Quotes

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

Quote #1

Billy says that he first came unstuck in time in 1944, long before his trip to Tralfamadore. The Tralfamadorians didn't have anything to do with his coming unstuck. They were simply able to give him insights into what was really going on. (2.11.1)

So the novel clearly distinguishes between the cure for Billy's existential angst—the Tralfamadorians—and whatever caused him to become unstuck from time. Billy's time-travel appears to be a symptom of his overall suffering. The moment he truly begins to realize he is in deadly danger behind enemy lines, he flashes forward beyond death, back before birth, and then to the moment when he almost drowned trying to learn to swim.

Quote #2

Billy, after all, had contemplated torture and hideous wounds at the beginning and the end of nearly every day of his childhood. Billy had an extremely gruesome crucifix hanging on the wall of his little bedroom in Ilium. A military surgeon would have admired the clinical fidelity of the artist's rendition of all Christ's wounds—the spear wound, the thorn wounds, the holes that were made by the iron spikes. Billy's Christ died horribly. He was pitiful. (2.19.15)

One reason Billy does not seem to seek comfort in God (even though he is a chaplain's assistant before he is taken captive by the Germans) is that he associates Christianity with a suffering Christ. Billy himself is frequently compared to Christ—in the epigraph and because of his job in the army—so why would he seek solace in a religion that is okay with his suffering?

Quote #3

Weary drew back his right boot, aimed a kick at the spine, at the tube which had so many of Billy's important wires in it. Weary was going to break that tube.

But then Weary saw that he had an audience. Five German soldiers and a police dog on a leash were looking down into the bed of the creek. The soldiers' blue eyes were filled with a bleary civilian curiosity as to why one American would try to murder another one so far from home, and why the victim should laugh. (2.33.6-7)

Billy isn't really laughing, though it looks that way; he's actually convulsing. Why does Weary decide to add to Billy's suffering by bullying him on the battlefield when they are both in danger? What does this say about Weary's character?

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