Slaughterhouse-Five Part Two

Posted in Book Reports, GSU photo archive, History, War by chamblee54 on July 29, 2015








This is part two of an excavation of Slaughterhouse-Five, a story by Kurt Vonnegut. Part one has already been published. Pictures are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”. It is ok to skip over the text and look at the pictures.

The second chapter is the beginning of the story. The first eight words sum up the plot nicely. LISTEN: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time. The first word is the most important, and the most likely to be ignored. People love to talk, but do not like to listen. If they do quit talking, and allow the other person to speak, then they are thinking of what clever comeback they can say. If only people were as proud of the ability to listen, as they are of the clever things they say.

Billy Pilgrim, or BP, is the main character of this story. By trade, he was an optometrist in Ilium, NY. BP led a reasonably pleasant life, in spite of, or perhaps because of, being shaped like a Coca Cola bottle. His father was a barber, also in the mythical town of Ilium, NY, until he died in a hunting accident. This incident motivates KV to write “So it goes.” This will be abbreviated as SIG006.

BP … which under no circumstances should be confused with British Petroleum … survives infantry duty in World War II and a plane crash in 1968. This crash killed everyone except BP and the co-pilot. SIG007. The plane crash is an important moment in the movie version of SF. PG saw the SF movie, while a UGA student, at the PJ auditorium. That is enough initials for one paragraph.

While recovering from the plane crash, BP’s wife dies of carbon monoxide poisoning. SIG008. (In the note taking that preceded this text, PG missed SIG008. If this was a scholarly dissertation, this would be a big deal. To a slack blogger, it is not. While PG will try to chronicle all 106 SIG in SF, he is not making any promises.) After the plane crash, BP comes out of the time travel closet. BP tells earth people about the wonders of Tralfamadore. These folks are two feet tall, green, and shaped like plungers. Tralfamadorians feel sorry for earth people.

PG has long suspected that he is a Zorlac, from the planet Thrunombulax. PG is quiet about this, as prejudice against Zorlacs is acceptable by polite people. Many white people are trying so, so, hard not to appear prejudiced against anyone. When they see an approved target for their tribal rage, white people lose it. Just look at the way people with deviant attitudes about race relations are portrayed. With this in mind, PG has learned to keep quiet about his Thrunombulaxian origin. The relationship of Thrunombulax to Tralfamadore is unknown.

A letter was written to the Ilium News Leader by BP. He tells about the lessons he learned on Tralfamadore. This was in 1967, on the eve of BP’s daughter’s wedding. Trallies see a person who is dead, and say that he/she is having a bad day. It is a Trally custom to say, about death, so it goes. SIG009. Number nine, number nine, number nine. Turn me on dead man. The Beatles white album was recorded at approximately the same time as BP going to Tralfamadore.

A wonderful tool is now available for the production of this SF commentary, and SIG inventory. The text of SF … not to be confused with science fiction or San Francisco … is available electronically in the sf_pdf. Alas, it is an imperfect tool. You can download a copy to your machine. On this copy you can highlight certain words in yellow magic marker, but you cannot copy text. You can copy text from the online version, but it comes out funny and you have to do so much editing that it might be easier to just manually copy the text.

While working on the letter about Trallies, BP is visited by his daughter, Barbara. At a young age, she had to manage her mother’s funeral, and take care of her senile father. KV, who has a way with words, describes the young lady as a “a bitchy flibbertigibbet … legs like an Edwardian grand piano.” Barbara … we might know her married name later … asks her dad why he waited until 1968 to talk about time travel. He did not think the time was ripe.

The tale segues into the first experiences with time travel. This was in World War II. BP was a chaplain’s assistant, which is not a well thought of position. One day on maneuvers, BP was playing A Mighty Fortress Is Our G-d on the organ. (KV made a mistake here. AMFIOG was written by Martin Luther, without any assistance from Johann Sebastian Bach.) A war game umpire showed up, and told everyone that they were dead. Before long, BP got word that his father had been killed while hunting deer. SIG010. The offending shot was fired by his human friend, and not by a deer.

When BP returns from the funeral, there are orders for him to go to Europe. A chaplain’s assistant has been killed in action. SIG011. Soon, BP participates in the Battle of the Bulge. BP has no weapon, helmet, or boots. BP looks alternately like a box of kitchen matches, and a filthy flamingo. BP meets foulmouthed Pittsburgh refugee Roland Weary, so saves BP numerous times before trying to kill him. Roland Weary was the only member of a gun crew to survive a 88mm German tank gun. SIG011.

The name Roland means many things to PG. Rowland NC, with an ornamental w, is the hometown of PG’s father. Roland Cofer is a former co-worker. Roland Cofer was the cheerful son of Willie Simpson, the store manager. The fact that Roland is black, and Willie is white, which should not concern the reader. It did not concern Roland or Willie.

The father of Roland Weary was a plumber. He collected guns, knives, and torture devices. The noname dad gave his wife a model of an iron maiden, which was a torture device before it was a heavy metal band. The device was a small chamber, with doors on hinges. The doors were lined with spikes, which impale the guest when the doors are closed. There is a drain in the bottom, for elimination of blood. SIG012. No mention is made of who cleans the iron maiden, or if it was cleaned. Eventually the smell would make the spikes redundant.

Roland Weary was a bully. He saw BP as a good target for his tough talk. Once, he described a torture where someone was tied down, with his eyes facing the sky. The eyelids are cut off, so there is no stopping the sun. SIG013.

BP is showing signs of common sense. He lets the motor mouth ramble without protest or argument. It turns out that BP is no stranger to gore. (This is blood and guts, not slick Willie’s VPOTUS.) BP had an explicit crucifix in his bedroom. Though nominally nondenominational, the Pilgrim family made sure young Billy knew all about the terrible things that happened to Jesus. SIG014.

Roland Weary had a pornographic picture, which BP saw numerous times. The legend was that André Le Fèvre an assistant to Louis J. M. Daguerre, was busted for selling a print of this photgraph. Mr. Le Fèvre died in prison. SIG015. A killjoy website, mental floss, says this never happened. Roland Weary later fantacizes being the only survivor of a German attack. SIG016.

It was about this time that BP starts to time travel. The first visit is to the YMCA, where his father is teaching him how to swim. The second adventure is to 1965, when BP is 41 years old. His mother is in an old peoples home. (PG once used the phrase “old folks home” at an estate sale, and was quickly told that OFH was considered rude.) While BP was at the OPH, a former marathon runner crossed the mortal finish line, and was wheeled out on a gurney. SIG017.

While sitting in a chair at the OPH, BP noticed a lump in the cushion. It was a book, The Execution of Private Slovik. Eddie Slovik was an American soldier, who was executed for desertion in 1945. SIG018. An excerpt from the court opinion in the case is quoted. It seems as though Pvt. Slovik was executed as a morale building exercise. SIG019.

The next time travel episode was a party in 1958. BP gets drunk, and screws a woman he is not married to. This is putting the tryst back in optometrist. When BP comes back to real time 1945, Roland Weary is about to kick him in the lower back. This effort at self expression is interrupted by the Germans, who take BP prisoner. This is the end of chapter two.







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  1. […] to part three of the Vonnegutian excavation of Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut. Parts one and two have already been published. Pictures are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia […]

  2. […] is part four of a Vonnegutian appreciation of Slaughterhouse-Five. Parts one, two, and three are already available for your amusement. This segment will deal exclusively with Chapter […]

  3. […] the chamblee54 modification and reconstruction of Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut. Parts one, two, three, and four have already been published. Pictures are from “The Special Collections and […]

  4. […] the chamblee54 disposable dissertation on Slaughterhouse-Five, a novel by Kurt Vonnegut. Parts one, two, three, four, and five are available for viewing, and gentle criticism. Pictures today are from […]

  5. […] retrospective of Kurt Vonnegut’s anti glacier classic, Slaughterhouse-Five. Parts one, two, three, four, five, and six have already seen the light of day. This installment will cover chapters […]

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