Slaughterhouse-Five Part Three

Posted in Book Reports, Library of Congress, War by chamblee54 on July 31, 2015








Welcome 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 State University Library”. It is written like J. R. R. Tolkien.

It is a lovely last day of July in Georgia. This chapter will be include chapters three and four. This project is at a lovely interlude. The rythyms and methods have been established. It is still fun to write, without the dreary duty involved in the final chapters. Hopefully it will be fun to read. It is early enough in the day that the window can be left open. Joggers and dog walkers are in the road, accompanied by baby strollers and cell phones. It is a great day in post racial Amerika.

Billy Pilgrim (BP) has been captured by the Germans. It was the tail end of the war, and most of the elite soldiers were pushing up Russian daisies. The Germans who captured BP were teenage boys and toothless old men. Their uniforms were taken off of dead soldiers. This ghoulish bit of recycling was marked by the phrase “so it goes.” It is noted in this text as SIG020.

The commander of the unit, that captured BP, was a corporal. He had been wounded four times, and sent back into action. The corporal wore golden cavalry boots, stolen off a dead Hungarian colonel. SIG021. This theme of stealing footwear from prisoners will be played out soon.

Roland Weary is well equipped. He has a spectacular hunting knife, scarves, boots, and a bullet proof Bible. When he is captured, the Germans take all his pretties away. His combat boots are taken off his feet, and given to one of the teenage boys. The boy had wooden clogs, which were given to Roland Weary. It did not work out well for the captured Amerikan.

While admiring the manly footwear of the colonel, BP hears three shots in the distance. Two Amerikan scouts were killed. SIG022. These scouts had been with BP, and Roland Weary, and had left them. Roland Weary thought thet him, and the scouts, were the Three Musketeers. The scouts thought Roland Weary was an obnoxious jerk. As KV said in another book, some people are just no damn good. Some people say that KV had a negative attitude.

While the Germans were dealing with him, BP began to time travel. He wound up in Ilium NY, 1967, when BP was 44 years old. His apparent date of birth varies throughout the text, which is not a big deal on Tralfamadore. BP, a wealthy optometrist, drives a Cadillac El Dorado Coupe de Ville. It has a bumber sticker that says “Impeach Earl Warren.”

PG was 13 yo in part of 1967, and can remember Earl Warren. The man was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. This version of SCOTUS handed down decisions about school desegregation, and Miranda rights, that upset conservatives. Before that, Mr. Warren was Governor of California, and the Republican Vice Presidential candidate in 1948. This was an election the Republicans had no business losing, but Harry Truman got the electoral votes. Earl Warren is little remembered today. The fact that PG recognizes the name, and the bumper sticker, makes him feel old in 2015.

BP had a good life in 1967. He drove a Cadillac, and made lots of money. BP went to Lions Club meetings, where the speaker said to bomb North Vietnam back into the stone age. His daughter was about to be married. One problem is the death of a beloved dog, Spot. SIG023.

1967 was much more appealing than the 1944 reality of capture by Germans. BP, however, was an optimist, and eventually an optometrist. It was all about how you see things. BP saw soldiers with piano teeth, and corpses with blue and ivory feet. SIG024. Soon, the captured Amerikans were paraded in front of a movie camera. There was no film in the camera, but the POW did not know that. On the horizon was a puff of smoke. A battle was being fought, and soldiers were dying. SIG025.

Eventually, the POW were loaded into train cars. The cars were marked with orange and black stripes, as a signal to the allied bombers. Later, when Barbara Pilgrim was married, the tents at the reception had orange and black stripes. The reception was in no danger of enemy bombers, even though it was hosted by a time traveling former POW.

While on the train car, BP had to endure a conversation with a geriatric Colonel, whose lungs rattled like greasy paper bags. The Colonel invited everyone to a barbeque in Cody WY. After a while, PG was ushered into a different train car from the Colonel, who outranked him. Soon, word arrived that a man had died in another car. SIG026. The deceased combatant was Wild Bob. SIG027. BP was chatting with a hobo, who said he had seen much worse than this. Little did he know what awaited him. Or maybe he did know. This is the end of chapter three.

At the start of chapter four, we learn that BP’s wife is named Valencia. Her daughter has just been married, before having a reception in an orange and black tent. BP is having trouble sleeping, and goes downstairs. There is a half empty bottle of champagne. Yes, the bottle is half empty, not half full, as if that is an important distinction on Tralfamadore. BP pulls the cork out of the bottle, and there is no fizz. The champagne is dead. SIG028.

Soon, the spaceshop … no mister clumsy typist, it is a space ship, not a space shop. … the spaceship from Tralfamadore lands in the back yard. Trallies do not speak. However, they have a voice synthesizer which imitates earthling sounds. This tactic is employed for comic effect in the movie. While BP is screwing Montana Wildhack, the voice machine asks if they are mating.

Nobody dies during the Tralfamadorian abduction, and there is no occasion for an SIG. This is made up for when BP returns to the POW train. First, the hobo says “You think this is bad? This ain’t bad.” SIG 029. Then, there is a death in the car ahead of BP. Roland Weary succumbs to gangrene, brought about by marching, in wooden clogs. SIG030. Roland Weary blames BP for his death.

This is one of the moments when PG feels a bond with BP, who, it should be remembered, is a fictional character. You meet someone, under bad circumstances, who is an asshole. Something bad happens to the asshole, who follows the asshole tradition of looking for someone to blame his misfortune on. The lucky person is you. It is not always pleasant. This thought may, or may not, be with BP as he finally gets off the POW wagon. BP is the next to last person off the train. The last person off is the dead hobo. SIG031.

When the POW arrive, they are led to a pile of clothing. It was overcoats, taken from other POW, who are now taking the German dirt nap. SIG032. BP gets a civilian coat, with a fur collar. It is way too small for him, and looks like a three cornered hat. SIG033.

BP meets Edgar Derby, who will play an important role in this story. We already know this. KV does not like suspense. Mr. Derby cradled the head of Roland Weary as the asshole left the planet. SIG034. KV cannot resist the temptation to tell us what will happen to Mr. Derby in sixty eight days. SIG035.

By now, BP is naked. This is part of the introduction to POW life. By coincidence, when BP went to Tralfamadore, the first thing they said to do was take off the clothes. BP is being deloused, which is an underrated function in wartime. The clothing of BP goes through a chemical process that kills lice, bacteria, and cooties. SIG036. This is the last SIG in this installment.

Before long, BP time travels back to Tralfamadore. The trallie is explaining a few basic things to BP. At this point we get the most important quote in SF. PG read this in 1978, and never forgot it. PG looked for this quote on the internet, and nobody thought it was important enough to share. It is amazing that this should be so esoteric, as this quote is at the end of chapter four.

“If I hadn’t spent so much time studying Earthlings,’ said the Tralfamadorian, ‘I wouldn’t have any idea what was meant by “free will.” I’ve visited thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied reports on one hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will.”









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  1. […] 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 five. It […]

  2. […] 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 […]

  3. […] 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 “The […]

  4. […] 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 nine […]

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