Slaughterhouse Five

Chapter 1 Exemplification

Setting and Background

Slaughterhouse Five, a novel written by Kurt Vonnegut, was written during the mid-1900’s. Vonnegut, who serves as the narrator throughout Chapter 1, reveals that he was captured and kept as a prisoner of war; or POW, during his service in Dresden, Germany, which prepares the readers for the rest of his novel. Although he acts as the narrator in the first Chapter, we are led by a new character known as Billy Pilgrim in Chapter 2. Vonnegut acts as the narrator during Chapter 1 only in order to show the audience that his book is more of a memoir, rather than just another fiction war story. Vonnegut’s narration in Chapter 1 helps show that he is indeed part of the novel, and not detached from his book, which in return makes the readers think of Vonnegut as the main narrator rather than Billy Pilgrim. Slaughterhouse Five was written during the Post Modernism period, which is why the distinction between fiction and reality is closely made, “All this happened, more or less” (Vonnegut 1). Because the story might not be as believable without Vonnegut’s experiences of Dresden’s firebombing, he gains credibility for his novel by introducing the fact that he was in fact there when the bombing took place. Vonnegut also tends to write in short, declarative sentences, even in the first few pages, which creates a more dark and dry writing style.. “I got O’Hare on the line in this way. He is short and I am tall. We were Mutt and Jeff in the war. We were captured together in the war. I told him who I was on the telephone. He had no trouble believing it. He was up. He was reading. Everybody else in the house was asleep” (Vonnegut 4). Vonnegut’s use of asyndeton helps make his writing more direct and to the point, taking away all forms of confusion during reading. As Vonnegut continues through Chapter 1, he reveals to the audience his life after being released. He states how he bought a house, got married, and had children attempting to leave his POW life in the past. Even though that part of his life is over, Vonnegut often remembers his experiences in Dresden. To fulfill these memories, we are told Vonnegut stays up late at night calling old war buddies and girlfriends just to relive the forgotten.


In Chapter 1 of Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut targets his audience with a blunt and detached tone. Most of his novel, which tends to be an excessive amount of simple sentences, displays how lonely and depressed Vonnegut has become due to his experiences 23 years before he even wrote the novel. Vonnegut reveals the jouney for which he traveled to write his dark and melancholy novel, which is filled with an abundance of short and declarative sentences. The use of short sentences ultimately reveals his overall opinion, that there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre. Vonnegut's overwhelming use of polysendeton and asyndeton, such as on page 4, “I got O’Hare on the line in this way. He is short and I am tall. We were Mutt and Jeff in the war. We were captured together in the war. I told him who I was on the telephone. He had no trouble believing it. He was up. He was reading. Everybody else in the house was asleep", help to uncover the painful memories Vonnegut holds. Later on both asyndeton and polysyndeton combine to develop his underlying argument against sending young children to war. Not only does Vonnegut disagree with children being placed in such situations, he also shows he is against not only war, but any type of massacre, in all ways. To show the effects war had placed on him, he tells his children "that they are not under any circumstances to take part in massacres, and that the news of massacres of enemies is not to fill them with satisfaction or glee" (Vonnegut 19). I feel Vonnegut will continue showing the wrongs of placing children in war, and further his argument against war altogether.


Vonnegut throughout the first chapter places emphasis primarily on children's roles in the war. He takes a side against the use of these "children" in combat positions in war, shown through the voice of Mary O'Hare. War movies have desensitized Americans to the horrors of war and do not correctly represent the ages and innocence of the soldiers. These young soldiers have their innocence and futures ripped from them or ruined by death and inhumanities witnessed during their service. Vonnegut wishes to portray the massacre of Dresden as appropriately and accurately as he can through the tale of Billy Pilgrim, and how he witnessed and survived the onslaught in Dresden. Promising to display the youth involved and how horrid that fact is.


Throughout Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut uses many motifs that play a key role in discovering not only what he strives to prove, but also add his own artisitic touch. The first chapter is an outstanding templet for what is t come and some leading motifs are discovered. The first being possibly the most important and potent, "So it goes". These three descriptive words no only show death, but how death has taken a tole on Vonnegut, how it is just so nonchalant. How a powerful part of life is drowned out by so many memories, that he can only signify in three words. "He had to take these from the dead people in the cellars of Dresden. So it goes." The meaning of death and the dealing with death by Vonnegut, a release of emotion in an emotionless statement. Another abundant phrase Vonnegut uses is "mustard gas and roses". I feel this is talking about the taste in his mouth from the war. The taste of murder and meaningless death, mixed with the taste of a bitter sweet memory of home. "He doesnt mind the smell of mustard gas and roses." Vonnegut, talking to his dog, expresses the shame he possesses for his "smell". I feel both of these motifs will be played out through experiences and we will know in depth how they came to light, and thus we will be exposed to Vonnegut's inner, deepest feelings towards war.