Slaughterhouse Five Explication

Summary and Analysis of Chapter 1.


Vonnegut opens his introduction in his current subsiding residence. He is a veteran and a POW of World War Two and through first person he shares the reasoning and details of his novel Slaughterhouse Five with his audience, the war torn world. He shares many stories of war in Dresden and of 1967 in order to show friends that have impacted his life, how war captures innocence when "babies" are sent, and his distaste toward war. Throughout his novel, Vonnegut speaks through an alter-ego, Billy Pilgrim, but by introducing himself in first person, a connection between Vonnegut and Billy is easily prevalent. By switching perspectives the continuation of the novel flows with ease of understanding that Billy’s experiences are those of Vonnegut’s. Vonnegut continually exercises the use of polysyndeton and asyndeton sentences in a technical and repetitive style. Vonnegut displays a Post Modernism style due to the use of sharing stories of war, and a technical style, and a first person point of view. Many authors of this time would purposefully use a story to show society of an inner lying significance. In first person, and the repetitive style of syntax, Vonnegut falls into Post Modernism.


Vonnegut inundates the readers with bleak and doleful emotions by using a detached and somber tone when addressing the atrocities of the war. He wrote short. He wrote simply. He wrote bluntly. Vonnegut utilizes simple and blunt syntax to show that the war had cost him the loss of his innocence. His asyndeton syntax shows how he no longer takes joy in the small human things. The dreary and monotonous tone evoked by this rhetorical device displays an underlining presence of grief and exhaustion and boredom and disconnection caused by the war. Vonnegut also uses polysyndetonic syntax to create a harsh tone of reflection. His words seem flippant but the meaning of his words shows the awful experiences he has gone through, “And the line met the red line and then the yellow line, and the yellow line stopped because the character represented by the yellow line was dead” (5). This metaphor shows that he has become numb to death and human emotions. The continuation of thought shows his lack of care and lack of consideration for creating a complex and elaborate sentence to explain these complex emotions. He has been robbed of his human feelings. His simple diction helps explain the effect war has had on him.

What to Expect

In the first chapter of Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut uniquely displays an outline for what the book will contain and its greatest arguments. Cleverly, Vonnegut provides his readers with an ongoing style by “train-of-thought” to present the reader with what to expect from the novel, such as his usage of Mary O’Hare and the “Children’s Crusade”. Underneath the text, we can expect a memoir told in an “old man with his memories” impact, including even tall tales, and rather simple-but-eloquently complex stories representing what truly happened during the bombing of Dresden, resulting in the deaths of numbers as great as Hiroshima; “So it goes”. In short, his style, overall detached tone, and usage of polysyndeton and asyndeton evoke Vonnegut’s main argument early on in the first chapter: war takes away innocence. The first paragraph gives us specific moments that happened, which he will probably tell us about. He will tell us about the man shot for stealing a teapot, about the man who threatened to kill his enemies, and about being captured in Dresden. Slaughterhouse Five is the story representing the bombing of Dresden and the loss of innocence by who we can expect only to be Billy Pilgrim.


In Vonnegut's novel, Slaughterhouse Five, there is a constant reminder that war is filled with loss of life and innocence. Throughout his novel, Vonnegut repeatedly states "so it goes" when there is death. "So it goes" the human, or bug, stuck in the amber time line they will never escape. Their life and death is a set plan and once they have passed, they continue to move on or backwards in their life events like that of Billy. Vonnegut shows us that death is always occurring but the last breath is not the end. In his underlying message, innocence prevails in the subject of war. Sending young boys and young men is a devastating problem that people face with the war recruitments. While they are not as experienced and haven't "lived their lives" war also takes their innocence, forces them to grow up, and traumatizes them for life. Vonnegut constantly speaks of babies, through baby fat and actual babies, but through all, his underlying argument lies.