Study Guide

Slaughterhouse-Five Chapter 1, Section 5

By Kurt Vonnegut

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Chapter 1, Section 5

  • During college, the narrator works for the Chicago City News Bureau.
  • The narrator tells us about the first story he ever reported, about a poor guy just back from the war working as an elevator operator.
  • He's supposed to bring the elevator down to the basement, but his wedding ring gets caught in the metal ornaments surrounding the elevator, and the elevator squashes his body.
  • So the narrator calls in this story to this lady writer for her to type up. And she asks him: how did the poor schmo's wife respond? The wife doesn't know yet, says our narrator.
  • The writer tells the narrator to call the wife posing as a member of the police department so he can get the wife's initial reaction to her husband's death.
  • Our narrator does call the wife. And, he says, she responds with "about what you would expect her to say" (1.5.10).
  • When he calls back with the wife's reaction, the woman writer asks what the guy's body looked like after being squashed—just because she wants to know.
  • The narrator tells her. (We find out that her name is Nancy.) It doesn't bother him, he says, because he's seen lots worse in the war.

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