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Lesson 6: Slaughterhouse-Five—Chapters 1–4

Lesson 6: Slaughterhouse-Five—Chapters 1–4


Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, published in 1969, is a novel with a strong anti-war message. In his novel, Vonnegut blends his real-life experiences as a prisoner of war during the World War II fire-bombing of Dresden, Germany, with the fictional experiences of Billy Pilgrim, the novel’s main character. In fact, it’s sometimes difficult when reading the novel to separate the real-life Vonnegut and the fictional Billy.

As you read the first two chapters of Slaughterhouse-Five, you’ll notice that the fire-bombing of Dresden quickly establishes itself as the novel’s central focus. Through the experiences and perceptions of Billy Pilgrim, you’ll begin to see how Vonnegut himself views war, life, death, human beings, and the universe. You’ll also encounter Vonnegut’s penchant for science fiction as Billy becomes “unstuck in time,” traveling back and forth not only to different points in his life but to a faraway planet as well.