Slaughterhouse-Five By: Kurt Vonnegut Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time. He came unstuck while he was in World War II and has been traveling throughout different moments of his life ever since. He has seen his birth, death, and everything in between several times. Slaughterhouse Five is the story of Billy s life, but not in order, from birth to death, because that is not how he lived it. Billy was born and grew up in Illium, New York.
After high school, he went to Illium School of Optometry but was drafted for the Second World War before he was able to graduate. He was shipped to Europe but hadn t even been issued a gun or proper boots when he found himself wandering lost behind enemy lines with three other men. Two of these men ended up dead, Billy and one other, Roland Weary, were captured by the Germans and became prisoners of war. Weary blamed Billy for this and for the fact that he died of gangrene while in a freight train being shipped to a prison with many other POWs. He told all of them about how Billy Pilgrim killed him. One of these men, Paul Lazzaro, promised to avenge Weary s death and he went through with his promise by hiring someone to murder Billy many years later.
Billy knew this because he had already seen it happen many times. Billy was on this train too, but he was in a different boxcar. He soon found himself, along with ninety-nine other prisoners of war, at a prison with 15 Russian prisoners of war. There he was given a coat that was much too small for him. He ended up turning this into a muff for his hands. He made a toga out of curtains in the prison and started wearing this too.
He also found some boots that were painted silver and claimed these for himself as well. By the time Billy was shipped to Dresden he was dressed much like a clown. Dresden was bombed soon after Billy arrived and he, the other prisoners, and their guards were the only ones in the town to survive. So it goes. After the war, Billy returned to the Illium School of Optometry, graduated, married the owner of the school s daughter, had 2 children, and became quite rich. On the night of his daughter s wedding, Billy was abducted by aliens.
He was kept in a zoo on a planet called Tralfamadore for years where he learned many things. Perhaps the most important thing he learned is that all moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist. Therefore, when someone dies you shouldn t be sad because they may be dead in that particular moment, but they are perfectly fine in many other moments. Because of this, when Billy hears that someone died he just says what the Tralfamadorians do, which is, So it goes. When Billy finally returned home, it seemed he had only been gone for a millisecond instead of the years he had actually been gone. He attended his daughter s wedding, and then a few years later, while flying on a small plane with other optometrists to a convention, almost died again.
There plane crashed into the top of a mountain and everyone, except Bill and the copilot, were killed. While he was in the hospital, his wife died accidentally of carbon-monoxide poisoning. So it goes. After the plane crash, Billy decided to go public with his story about living in the zoo on Tralfamadore. Everyone thought he had gone crazy. Maybe he had.
At the time of his death, Billy was in Chicago giving a seminar on flying saucers and the true nature of time. He knew he was about to die. He told the crowd he would be killed that night, he laughed about it. He knew Lazzaro was finally going to go through with his promise.
And he did. Billy was shot in the head. So it goes.