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Free Study Guide for Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut-BookNotes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 7

Summary

Twenty-five years after the war, Billy is flying to a convention with other optometrists from Ilium. Although he knows that the plane will crash, he does not say anything about it, for he does not want to sound foolish. When the plane does crash, everybody is killed except Billy and the co-pilot. Billy sustains a serious head injury and is taken to a hospital, where he is operated on by a famous brain surgeon. He remains unconscious for two days after the operation; during this forty-eight hours, he has many time travels. He goes back to Dresden, to the time when he, Werner Gluck, and Edgar Derby accidentally come across naked German girls in a communal shower. He also visits a malt syrup factory and watches the Americans at work there.

Notes

Before it happens, Billy is aware of the plane crash that is going to take place; but he does or says nothing about it. Never daring to interfere with his future, he never makes an effort to change the flow of events, event if they are tragic. Only he and the co-pilot survive the crash, and Billy must undergo brain surgery. Later, his daughter will blame Billy's strange behavior on his head injury and subsequent brain surgery.


When Billy travels back in time to Dresden in this chapter, he realizes that he, Derby, and their young German guard were all very unlikely soldiers; but war drags in all types of men, usually against their wills. As the war drags on, many of the "real soldiers" are killed. As a result, stranger and stranger men are killed to be soldiers. Billy acknowledges that the three of them are, indeed, a motley trio.

CHAPTER 8

Summary

Howard W. Campbell, the American turned Nazi, visits the Americans in Dresden, trying to recruit men for a military unit that fights only on the Russian front. Derby stands up to Campbell, berating him about his Nazi beliefs.

Billy travels to the future to 1964, when he meets Kilgore Trout, the science fiction writer. The two of them become friends. His daughter blames Trout for causing all of Billy's strange ideas.

At a wedding anniversary celebration, Billy becomes upset over the performance of a quartet of singing optometrists. At first, he is at a loss to explain his reaction. Later he recalls the night when Dresden was destroyed. The Americans from Slaughterhouse Five, along with four German guards, were hiding in the underground meat locker as the bombs dropped on the city. To Billy, the four guards looked like a silent film of a barbershop quartet. Billy remembers telling a pregnant Montana Wildhack about the horrible night. He described the destroyed city and how they, the only survivors, had to fight their way out of the rubble. They finally came to an inn, where a blind innkeeper gave them food and shelter.

Notes

Campbell, a traitorous American who became a Nazi, is described in this chapter. When he comes to see the American prisoners in Dresden, he is wearing an elaborate and outlandish costume, appearing much like a Lincoln outfit with a swastika. The irony of the image and the silent criticism of the traitor is intentional on Vonnegut's part. Though Campbell offers the hungry Americans food if they will follow him to fight on the Russian front, they refuse and criticize his traitorous ways.

It is very obvious that Billy has been deeply affected by the bombing of Dresden. He clearly remembers the horrible night when he was hiding in the basement of the slaughterhouse, listening to the bombs dropping above. He, the four German guards, and the other Americans in the basement were amongst the few survivors. He remembers thinking that the four guards were like a silent barbershop quartet; therefore, when a barbershop quartet sings at his wedding anniversary celebration, he becomes very upset and agitated. He leaves his own party to deal with his emotions in privacy.

Billy then remembers sharing the horrors of the Dresden bombing with Montana Wildhack, his mate in the Tralfamadore zoo. When he told her about it, he was able to give a matter-of-fact narration, contrasting sharply with his reaction at the party. It is obvious that Billy is sinking deeper and deeper into mental instability. His daughter blames all of his strange ideas on Trout, the science fiction writer with whom Billy has become friends.

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