The Slaughter House Five THE NOVEL – THE PLOT – Billy Pilgrim, like Kurt Vonnegut, was an American soldier in Europe in the last year of World War II. If you come to know a combat veteran well- a veteran of that war, of the Korean War, or of the war in Vietnam- you will almost always find that his war experience was the single most important event in his life. The sights and scars of war remain with the soldier for the rest of his days, and his memories of death and killing help to shape whatever future career he may make. The same is true for Billy Pilgrim. What he saw and did during his six months on the battlefield and as a prisoner of war have dominated his life. Slaughterhouse-Five shows how Billy comes to terms with the feelings of horror, guilt, and despair that are the result of his war experiences.
Billy does this by putting the events of his life in perspective. He reorganizes his life so that all of it occurs within the context of his days in Europe during the war. Thus the novel relates Billy’s prewar and postwar history (including his death in 1976, which was many years in the future when Vonnegut was writing this book), but the real story of the novel is the story of Billy’s wartime days. All the other events in Billy’s life are merely incidental to his time as a soldier and a prisoner of war. You see them as events that come to his mind as he lives, or relives, the last months of the war in Europe.
Billy reorganizes his life by using the device of time-travel. Unlike everyone else, Billy Pilgrim doesn’t live his life one day after another. He has become unstuck in time, and he jumps around among the periods of his life like a flea from dog to dog. When you meet him in Chapter 2, it is December 1944 and Billy and three other American soldiers are lost in a forest far behind enemy lines. Billy closes his eyes for a moment, drifts back to a day in his past with his father at the YMCA, then suddenly opens his eyes in the future: it’s 1965 and he is visiting his mother in a nursing home.
He blinks, the time changes to 1958, then 1961, and then he finds himself back in the forest in December 1944. Billy doesn’t have much time to wonder about what has just happened. He’s captured almost immediately by German soldiers and put onto a train bound for eastern Germany. Aboard the train Billy has a great adventure in the future: on his daughter’s wedding night in 1967, he is kidnapped by a flying saucer from the imaginary planet Tralfamadore. The aliens take Billy to their home planet and put him in a zoo. Then, as always seems to happen, Billy wakes up back in the war.
The train arrives at a prison camp, and there a group of British officers throw a banquet for the American POWs. Before long he is traveling in time again, to a mental hospital in 1948, where he’s visited by his fiance, Valencia Merble. As soon as he recovers from his nervous breakdown, Billy will be set up in business as an optometrist by Valencia’s father. Billy is introduced to science fiction by his hospital roommate, Eliot Rosewater, whose favorite author is Kilgore Trout. Trout’s writing is terrible, but Billy comes to admire his ideas.
Billy travels in time again to Tralfamadore, where he is the most popular exhibit in the zoo. His keepers love talking to Billy because his ideas are so strange to them. He thinks, for example, that wars could be prevented if people could see into the future as he can. Next Billy wakes up on the first night of his honeymoon. After making love, Valencia wants to talk about the war. Before Billy can say much about it, he’s back there himself.
The American POWs are being moved to Dresden, which as an open city (of no military value) has come through the war unscathed, while almost every other German city has been heavily bombed. Billy knows that Dresden will soon be totally destroyed, even though there’s nothing worth bombing there- no troops, no weapons factories, nothing but people and beautiful buildings. The Americans are housed in building number five of the Dresden slaughterhouse. Billy continues his time-travels. He survives a plane crash in 1968. A few years before that, he meets Kilgore Trout.
And on Tralfamadore he tells his zoo-mate, Montana Wildhack, about the bombing of Dresden. Billy Pilgrim and the other American POWs take shelter in a meat locker beneath the slaughterhouse. When they go out the next day, Dresden looks like the surface of the moon. Everything has been reduced to ash and minerals, and everything is still hot. Nothing is moving anywhere. After months of digging corpses out of the ruins, Billy and the others wake up one morning to discover that their guards have disappeared.
The war is over and they are free. THE CHARACTERS – One way to keep straight the many characters in Slaughterhouse-Five is to group them according to when they appear in Billy Pilgrim’s life. There are the soldiers he meets during the war (Roland Weary, Paul Lazzaro, Edgar Derby, and Howard W. Campbell, Jr.), the people from his postwar years in Ilium, New York (his wife Valencia, his daughter Barbara, Eliot Rosewater, Kilgore Trout, and Professor Rumfoord), and the characters in his adventure in outer space (the Tralfamadorians and Montana Wildhack). A fourth group of characters might include the author himself and actual persons in his life, such as Bernard and Mary O’Hare. Some of the characters in this novel had already appeared in earlier novels by Vonnegut: Eliot Rosewater and Kilgore Trout in God Bless You, Mr.
Rosewater, Howard W. Campbell, Jr., in Mother Night, and the Tralfamadorians in The Sirens of Titan. Except for the O’Hares, you meet all of these characters only when they interact with Billy Pilgrim. – BILLY PILGRIM Kurt Vonnegut has chosen the names of his characters with care. When you first see a character’s name, you usually know something about that character even before you read about what he or she has done. Billy Pilgrim’s last name tells you that he is someone who travels in foreign lands and that his journeys may have a religious or spiritual aspect. Otherwise Billy doesn’t appear very promising as the hero of a novel.
Physically, he’s a classic wimp. He’s tall, weak, and clumsy, with a chest and shoulders like a box of kitchen matches and the overall appearance of a filthy flamingo. He has a very passive personality as well. When Billy was a child and his father threw him into a swimming pool, he just went to the bottom and waited to drown. While he is trying to avoid capture by the Germans, three other American soldiers offer him protection and companionship, yet he keeps saying, You guys go on without me. After the war, he allows himself to be pressured into marrying a stupid and unattractive woman no one else will marry.
And he lets his daughter bully him constantly. In the world of Slaughterhouse-Five Billy is a sheep among wolves. Some readers regard him as a kind of Christ figure who sojourns in the wilderness of his past and returns with a message of hope and peace for humanity. They also see a parallel between Billy’s assassination by Paul Lazzaro and Jesus’ martyrdom on the cross. But none of the other characters see Billy this way. In the army his meek faith in a loving Jesus makes everybody else sick.
His pacifism, together with his pathetic attempts to keep warm, make Billy look like a clown in his blue toga and silver shoes. Although many of the people he meets are thoughtless or cruel to him, the thing that does the most damage to his already fragile personality is the fire-bombing of Dresden. In what kind of world is such a thing possible? Billy is tormented by this question to which he has no answer. Life seems to victimize Billy at every turn, yet he prefers to turn the other cheek rather than put up a fight. This may be his weakling attempt at the imitation of Christ, but to many readers it looks a lot like a death wish.
But Billy has two things that enable him to survive: a powerful imagination and a belief that at heart people are eager to behave decently. His own belief in goodness never lets him despair, though he comes close to it. Ultimately it’s his imagination that saves him. Before Eliot Rosewater (another disillusioned man) introduces him to science fiction, Billy’s fantasies are aimless and childish. Then, in the writings of Kilgore Trout, Billy discovers a kindred spirit who not only agrees that life is crazy but offers alternative versions of reality. This gives Billy the idea of inventing a whole new fantasy world. In this created world, Billy sees himself as Adam and Montana Wildhack as Eve. In order for this brave new world to work, Billy must become innocent again, and to do this he has to discharge the guilt and despair associated with his past.
He does this by reorganizing his life through time-travel, gradually putting everything- but especially Dresden- in perspective. When this is accomplished, his pilgrimage is over and Billy is free. – ROLAND WEARY A soldier in combat is always on duty, his life constantly at risk, the tension sometimes unbearable. You know when you first see his name that Billy’s fellow soldier Roland Weary is exhausted after many months of fighting. What he needs is some rest.
Weary is a hard person to like: he’s stupid, fat, and mean, and he smells bad. It’s no surprise that his companions want to ditch him most of the time. So Weary has had to learn to deal with rejection, and one way he does this is by fantasizing a glorious and exciting war movie in which he is the hero. Because Weary fears that his real-life companions, the army scouts, will abandon him, his war movie concentrates on the deep, manly friendships he wishes he had in real life. Weary knows that the scouts will try to get rid off him sooner or later. His Three Musketeers story is only a fantasy.
He will want revenge when he is ditched, and he usually gets his revenge by ditching someone else. So he picks up a poor misfit who is even less popular than himself, suckers him into a friendship, then ditches him first. This time his would-be victim is Billy Pilgrim. One nice thing happens to Roland Weary. He gets to die in the way he would have wanted- in the arms of a true friend, Paul Lazzaro.
Weary has finally found a kindred spirit, and he can rest at last, knowing that Lazzaro intends to carry out the last mission of Weary’s life, to kill Billy Pilgrim. – PAUL LAZZARO The American POW Paul Lazzaro is the ugliest and meanest character in the book. Not only is he disgusting to look at, he’s nasty to the core, a real snake. In civilian life his friends are gangsters and killers, and he may be a gangster himself. The sweetest thing in life to him is getting revenge on people who have crossed him.
It’s not surprising that he and Roland Weary become buddies. Both of them have regularly been snubbed by the more popular and attractive people in their lives. Yet Lazzaro is more pure in his ugliness than Weary. When Weary rambles on about different kinds of torture, he’s speaking in the abstract, not talking about torturing anyone in particular. But when Lazzaro dreams up ways of hurting people, each torture is tailor-made for a specific victim.
Vonnegut’s description of Lazzaro is devastating: If he had been a dog in a city, a policeman would have shot him and sent his head to a laboratory, to see if he had rabies. – EDGAR DERBY At the time of World War II, men and boys everywhere still wore hats whenever they went outdoors. But by then the derby, a hat with a dome-shaped crown, had become a bit out of date and was usually seen only on older men. Thus, you can tell by his name that Edgar Derby is an older man than his fellow American POWs, and his values are those he learned in an earlier era. Because you know from the first that poor old Edgar Derby (as he is usually called) is doomed, you watch his gentle acts of kindness and generosity with a sinking heart.
For Edgar Derby doesn’t deserve to die. It is Derby who cradles the dying Weary’s head in his lap (whatever Paul Lazzaro says), and it is Derby who volunteers to sit in the prison hospital with a crazed and doped-up Billy Pilgrim while the other Americans party with the Englishmen. Derby believes that World War II is a just war. He had even pulled strings to get into the fighting after the army told him he was too old. And in Dresden, when the American Nazi Howard W.
Campbell, Jr., tries to talk the prisoners into going over to his side, Derby stands up to him and makes a moving speech about the ideals of America: freedom and justice and opportunities and fair play for all. This takes courage, considering the position he’s in. – VALENCIA MERBLE PILGRIM Billy first checks into the mental hospital after hearing himself propose marriage to this overweight, not very bright daughter of Ilium’s richest optometrist. He sees her as a symptom of his disease, his inability to deal with the alarming reality of the world and his lack of interest in life. But he marries her anyway, apparently for lack of a good reason not to.
The marriage is hardly a great romance, but Billy finds it at least bearable all the way. His unhappiness seems to have less to do with her than with life itself. Considering that Vonnegut frequently prefers female over male values, it’s difficult to find much to admire in Valencia. Not only is she unattractive, she’s insensitive to the deep psychological damage Billy underwent in the war, from which he continues to suffer. But for all her faults, Valencia adores Billy and is helplessly devoted to him.
She is so terrified of losing him after he barely survives a plane crash that she wrecks her car on the way to the hospital, passes out, and dies from carbon monoxide fumes. – BARBARA PILGRIM Barbara Pilgrim, Billy’s put-upon daughter, has hardly had a chance to get married and set up her own household when her father almost dies in a plane crash. While he is in the hospital, her mother inadvertently kills herself in an auto accident. Then, when Billy comes home, he turns out to be prematurely senile from brain damage and begins telling crazy stories about time-travel and aliens kidnapping him in a flying saucer. Not only is she suddenly the head of the family, but her father’s making a laughing stock of himself (and her) in public.
No wonder Barbara’s a bitchy flibbertigibbet. – BERTRAM COPELAND RUMFOORD Billy meets Rumfoord while recuperating from the plane crash in 1968. Relentlessly virile and athletic, this seventy-year-old Harvard professor and Air Force historian embodies every traditional masculine virtue Billy finds so upsetting: blind patriotism, sexism (his young fifth wife is just one more public demonstration that he’s a superman), and a firm belief in the survival of the fittest. Vonnegut uses Rumfoord as the primary spokesman for what he calls the military manner of thinking, which orders and then cravenly justifies atrocities such as the bombing of Dresden. – THE TRALFAMADORIANS The Tralfamadorians are two feet high, and green, and shaped like plumber’s friends topped by a little hand with a green eye in its palm. They can see in four dimensions, and this enables them to look at all time all at once, so death and the future hold no fear for them. The Tralfamadorians, who live on a distant planet, are creatures of science fiction.
Because of their alien perspective, the Tralfamadorians view human behavior with an objectivity few Earthlings can have. In this way, Vonnegut may be using the Tralfamadorians to tell you what he thinks about human conduct. Whenever the Tralfamadorians speak, Vonnegut may be revealing his own philosophy of life. Some readers argue that the purpose of the Tralfamadorians is to resolve the contradictions in life that have made Billy so upset. In this interpretation, the aliens function in the same way as dreams and mythology: they explain things through images and stories.
Others see the Tralfamadorians as the gods in Billy’s fantasy universe: they guide and protect the creatures in their charge. This makes them a big improvement over the gods Vonnegut sees as the rulers of the modern world- technology, which dehumanizes people, and authoritarian cruelty, which destroys people in the name of the survival of the fittest. The Tralfamadorians give Billy a philosophy through which he finds peace of mind. They also give him Montana Wildhack to mate with, and that brings him true happiness as well. – MONTANA WILDHACK Billy’s lover in this alien zoo is a curious combination of ingredients. On the one hand, she is the compliant sex kitten that bored, middle-aged males dream about in erotic fantasies. She is beautiful (and naked), and makes the first sexual advances- though shyly, of course.
On the other hand, Billy requires more from his dream woman than mere sexuality. His entire Tralfamadore fantasy is his attempt to reinvent the human race, with himself as the new Adam and Montana as the new Eve. And so he makes her loving as well as sexy, understanding as well as seductive, and a good mother to their child as well as a good lover to him. In Billy’s ideal Creation, both must be able to behave as decently as he believes Adam and Eve really wanted to behave. For all of her prodigious virtues, Montana Wildhack comes off as rather bloodless compared to the real-life women in the book, such as the annoying Valencia, the prickly Barbara, or the fiery Mary O’Hare.
But then Billy prefers fantasy to real life. It’s a lot safer. – ELIOT ROSEWATER One of the richest and smartest men in America, Eliot Rosewater is also one of the most disillusioned. His faith in American righteousness in World War II was shattered when he found that he had killed a German fireman who was trying to put out a fire that American bombers had started. He tried drinking, but that just ruined his health without alleviating what he saw as the alarming unfairness of the modern world.
So he committed himself to a mental hospital. There he meets a kindred spirit in Billy Pilgrim, who comes to share with him the one consolation Eliot has found in life: the peculiar wisdom in the science fiction of Kilgore Trout. – KILGORE TROUT The science fiction writer Kilgore Trout has great ideas for novels. (The Gutless Wonder is about a robot with bad breath; in The Gospel from Outer Space Jesus is a nobody until God adopts him.) But his prose style is frightful. After thirty years and more than seventy-five novels, Trout has only two fans, Eliot Rosewater and Billy Pilgrim, and even they are appalled by his writing.
Kilgore Trout is a manic version of Kurt Vonnegut, who also wrote science fiction and for years suffered from an indifferent public. Vonnegut uses Trout’s books to make fun of many of the values Americans hold dear. At the same time, he gets in a few good swipes at the pretensions of his own profession. In Slaughterhouse-Five (as in the two other Vonnegut novels in which he appears) Kilgore Trout plays a small but important role. His books offer Billy inspiration for therapeutic fantasies, and he personally gives Billy the courage to face his Dresden experience. – HOWARD W.
CAMPBELL, JR. Campbell is an American Nazi propagandist who writes a scornful account of the behavior of American POWs in Germany and who shows up at the slaughterhouse in Dresden to recruit candidates for his Free American Corps. He tries to bribe the Americans by promising them a terrific meal, but Edgar Derby puts Campbell in his place by calling him lower.. than a blood-filled tick. Campbell only smiles. In an earlier book, Mother Night, Vonnegut told Campbell’s whole story- he’s really an American spy who delivers coded messages to the Allies through his racist radio broadcasts.
But in Slaughterhouse we see him only in his official role as the Nazi he pretends to be. – MARY O’HARE Vonnegut dedicates this book to a real person, Mary O’Hare, the wife of his old war buddy Bernard V. O’Hare. He first meets her when he tries to get Bernard to reminisce with him about their war experiences, with the idea of generating material for his famous book about Dresden. This makes Mary angry.
She cares deeply about life- she’s a nurse- and to her, all war does is kill people. She is strong-minded and courageous enough to tell off an almost perfect stranger when she thinks he’s wrong. Vonnegut admires Mary O’Hare and wishes more people were like her. He believes that if enough women like her told off enough old farts like him, enough people might see the absurdity of war and we wouldn’t have wars any more. – BERNARD V.
O’HARE When Vonnegut visits Bernard O’Hare after the war, O’Hare appears to be little more than a henpecked husband, and acts embarrassed when Vonnegut tries to get him reminiscing about the war. But O’Hare had refused to pick up souvenirs in Dresden, so even then he must have hated the war and the profit some people made from it (his buddies with their trophies, Vonnegut with his book). He’s a gentle man who reproaches no one: when Vonnegut asks why Mary is mad, O’Hare lies to spare Vonnegut’s feelings. And even though he disapproves of Vonnegut’s project, he is kind enough to leave a book about Dresden on the nightstand for him. O’Hare is a great friend, and Vonnegut obviously likes him a lot.
He’s the only war buddy Vonnegut has kept in touch with, and together they return to Dresden in 1967. – KURT VONNEGUT The author himself appears in Slaughterhouse-Five, mainly in the first chapter, where he struggles vainly to get a handle on writing his Dresden book. His breakthrough comes when Mary O’Hare reminds him that it’s really babies who fight wars, not grown men. From that moment on everything goes right for the author. Vonnegut also pops up here and there in Billy Pilgrim’s POW story, but he’s really just reminding you that what those American prisoners of war saw and did really happened- and that he was there at the time. In the last chapter he tells about his return to Dresden as a tourist in 1967 with Bernard O’Hare.
OTHER ELEMENTS – SETTING – There are three main settings in Slaughterhouse-Five. – 1. War-ravaged Europe, through which Billy travels as a POW and ends up in Dresden. – 2. Peacetime America, where Billy prospers as an optometrist and pillar of society in Ilium, New York.
– 3. The planet Tralfamadore, where Billy and his fantasy lover Montana Wildhack are exhibited in a zoo. – Each setting corresponds to a different period in Billy Pilgrim’s life, and the story jumps from one setting to another as Billy travels back and forth in time. The physical contrast between the devastation of Europe and the affluence of postwar America is tremendous. It’s ironic that Billy, who suffered extreme privations as a prisoner of war, is made to feel no better by the material wealth he later acquires as a successful optometrist in Ilium, N.Y.
Ilium is the classical name for Troy, one of the richest cities in the ancient world. In The Iliad, the Greek poet Homer (ninth century B.C.) tells the story of the Trojan War, in which Troy was eventually destroyed by the besieging Greeks. Some readers believe that Slaughterhouse-Five is Kurt Vonnegut’s Iliad, for Troy was reputedly as beautiful as Dresden was before it was bombed. Billy begins to be happy about life only in an artificial but cozy habitat on another planet. Tralfamadore is an invention of Billy’s imagination, a paradise in which he, as Adam, and a new Eve (the former pornographic movie star Montana Wildhack) can start the human race over again.
Within the dome that protects them from the poisonous atmosphere of Tralfamadore, Billy and Montana are tended and watched over by a new set of gods, the wise and kindly Tralfamadorians. But notice that in each of the novel’s main settings Billy is confined: first as a POW, then as a prisoner of the meaningless contraptions of modern life, finally as an exhibit in an alien zoo. And throughout the book Vonnegut portrays Billy as a prisoner of time. Billy cannot change the past, the present, or the future, no matter how much he moves around from one to the other. The persistent image of a bug trapped in amber is Vonnegut’s clearest expression of this idea.
THEMES – Slaughterhouse-Five is first and foremost about war and how human beings cope with it. In treating this subject, Vonnegut explores several major themes, but no single one of them explains the whole novel. You’ll find that some of the following statements ring more true to you than others, yet you can find evidence in the book to support all of them. – WAR IS ABSURD Vonnegut attacks the reasoning that leads people to commit atrocities by drawing character portraits (Roland Weary and Professor Rumfoord) and by quoting from official documents (President Harry Truman’s explanation of the reasons for dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima). And he gives you a look at the ruins of Dresden so you can see the ground zero consequences of what he calls the military manner of thinking- which rationalizes a massacre by saying it will hasten the end of the war.
But more important than this generalized condemnation, Vonnegut focuses on the enormity of war and its disastrous effect on human lives, even long after it is over. Billy Pilgrim’s problems all stem from what he experienced in the war. The hobo freezes to death in the boxcar; Roland Weary dies from gangrene in his feet; Edgar Derby is shot for stealing a teapot; the harmless city of Dresden is bombed into the ground: it shouldn’t be possible for such things to happen, Billy feels. And yet he was there and saw them happen with his own eyes. His science fiction fantasies and time-traveling are his attempt to cope with the psychological damage the war inflicted on him. The fact that he succeeds (by going senile) is perhaps the most absurd thing of all.
– AUTHORITY IS TO BLAME FOR ATROCITIES To Vonnegut, both the boss and the underling escape guilt when an atrocity is committed: the boss’s hands are clean because others did the dirty work, and the underling was only following orders. He maintains that this was just as true of the Allies as it was of the Nazis in World War II. The Nazis built the death camps, and the Allies bombed Hiroshima and Dresden. Vonnegut believes that a great evil of authoritarianism is the assumption of righteousness, the claim that God is on our side. In other writings he expresses regret that the Nazis were so plainly evil because that just made it easier for the Allied authorities to claim that anything they did to defeat the Nazis was justified. To Vonnegut this is the same kind of authoritarian arrogance that led the Nazis into evil acts in the first place. There is no moral justification for atrocities, Vonnegut says, even though some defenders of the Dresden bombing maintain that it did accomplish its goal: to end the war sooner by demoralizing the enemy.
– MODERN LIFE IS MEANINGLESS Billy Pilgrim’s indifference to life comes as much from his peacetime experiences as from anything that happened to him in the war. During the war he could at least tell whether he was alive or dead. But his postwar life is empty in spite of his material wealth and the respect of his peers. Vonnegut highlights this apparent contradiction by having Billy find peace and happiness only through fantasy (or senility). Vonnegut seems to say that in real life, life doesn’t work. – ART VS.
REALITY Vonnegut spends a good deal of time in Slaughterhouse-Five talking about fiction. In Chapter 1 he shows how a writer distorts reality by forcing it to fit into the mold of a good story. In Chapter 5 he discusses the good and bad effects fiction has on our understanding of life. In Chapter 9 he pokes fun at the pretensions of writers and critics who take fiction too seriously. And the fragmented style in which Slaughterhouse-Five is written may be an attempt to reinvent the novel.
As Eliot Rosewater says, fiction just isn’t enough any more. Part of the difficulty lies in the nature of art itself. Art selects and orders its material, and the final product is a coherent whole. But life is messy and redundant: it can’t be contained in the neat formula of a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. In the case of such a horrifying event as the Dresden massacre, art has nothing intelligent to say. Some readers believe that Vonnegut overstates the problem in Slaughterhouse-Five, that the book itself is the solution.
just as Billy Pilgrim reinvents his life so he can cope with it, Vonnegut reinvents the novel so that it can cope with the absurd and often monstrous events of the modern world. – TECHNOLOGY DEHUMANIZES PEOPLE Machine imagery abounds in Slaughterhouse-Five, and wherever it turns up, it means bad news for human beings. Obviously, without sophisticated technology, the atomic bomb that devastated Hiroshima would not have been possible. But Vonnegut portrays even peacetime technology as making people into robots whose lives revolve around tending and improving machines. Billy’s father-in-law, Lionel Merble, for example, is turned into a machine by the optometry business.
– There are several additional themes that Vonnegut only touches on in Slaughterhouse-Five, but which are given fuller treatment in his other books. – FREE WILL VS. DETERMINISM At first the heroes of almost all Vonnegut’s novels believe in free will. (Free will is the idea that human beings make choices and decide their own destinies, that their actions make a difference in shaping their futures.) But inevitably Vonnegut’s heroes discover that their choices were manipulated by outside forces, that their fates were predetermined all along. Billy Pilgrim is Vonnegut’s most passive hero. He finds happiness and peace of mind only after adopting the deterministic philosophy of his imaginary masters, the Tralfamadorians.
– DARWIN VS. JESUS Vonnegut feels that Charles Darwin legitimized cruelty with his theory of natural selection. Although Darwin limited his theorizing to biology, other thinkers like the English philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) applied this theory to social matters, and took Darwin’s idea that the strong are favored in natural survival one step further, implying that only the strong should survive. It is this version of social Darwinism that Vonnegut disapproves of. In contrast, although he has been an atheist all his life, Vonnegut has always admired the Christian virtues of pacifism, tolerance, and love. – ORGANIZED RELIGION Vonnegut doesn’t have much good will toward organized religion.
For him it is no different from any other fo …