Summary of Slaughterhouse-Five

In the field of American satirical and science fiction literature, the most famous novel by the writer Kurt Vonnegut is known as Slaughterhouse-Five. It was first published in 1969 thanks to the work of Dell Publishing.


About the work

According to what the Critics have written about this satirical novel by Vonnegut, the story told in it can be seen as a catharsis of the terrible experience that this author lived, when being a prisoner of the Nazi forces, he had to go through the bombardment and total destruction of the city of Dresden, perpetrated by the allies.

However, the magic of Slaughterhouse-Five lies in the fact that it does not remain a mere story that seeks to inventory historical facts, but goes further, moving away from drama, and inserted into satire, science fiction and black humor, which manages to erect a stark criticism of the war itself.

In fact, such is the mastery that Vonnegut achieves in the plot he weaves for his alter-ego Billy Pilgrim, that since its publication, this novel has earned its place as one of the most recognized books in the history of American science fiction, which has made this work worthy of several recognitions, such as being taken to the big screen in 1972, by the director George Roy Hill, whose film version on Slaughterhouse-Five won several awards, such as the Grand Jury Prize at the 1972 Canes Festival.

As for its title, specialists in the work of Kurt Vonnegut point out that it is a clear reference to the site that served as a real-life prison for this author when he was imprisoned by Nazi forces in Germany during the Second World War. In this sense, according to what historians have indicated, in the absence of adequate structures for the arrest of the captured, the Nazi forces found it necessary to adapt a slaughterhouse in the city to confine them. This site was called Slaughterhouse 5.

However, Vonnegut also gives an alternative title to his novel, which suggests that it can also be called The Children’s Crusade, which has been interpreted by its critics as a clear reference to facts related to the sale and slavery of children during this war, or even a pointing to the age of the soldiers who were sent to the front, and who despite assuming on their shoulders the responsibility of defending their country, like all men, were in fact almost children, who were just beginning their lives, and were already sent to die.

Summary of Slaughterhouse-Five

As for the content of this American satirical novel, it can basically be said that it tells the story of Billy Pilgrim, belonging to the forces of the army of the United States, and who must go to World War II, falling prey to the German forces, a situation that leads him to live the destruction of the city of Dresden by the Allied forces. However, Pilgrim’s vision and experience will be just one of the many stories that will intertwine in the development of the novel.

Likewise, after telling the horrors this soldier has gone through, the story written by Kurt Vonnegut will tell how, a few years later, this same American soldier will have to go through the experience of being kidnapped by beings from another planet, and then be transferred – in a space trip – to the place inhabited by the traffickers, an opportunity that the author takes advantage of to expose many metaphysical approaches, which however do not leave aside the humor that characterizes and runs through this work, during each of its moments, and that somehow also became the seal of its author.

Image: portrait of Kurt Vonnegut, author of the novel Slaughterhouse-Five / Source: wikimedia.org

Summary of Slaughterhouse-Five
Source: Education  
October 29, 2019


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