Slaughterhouse Five


Emma Sullivan, Writer

“Billy has come unstuck in time…” is not what you expect for the beginning of either a powerful story about war and its effects — or that of a banned book. However, in 1973, Drake Public School in North Dakota took it upon themselves to burn 32 copies of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. As we know from Fahrenheit 451, burning books usually means they have something to say.

Billy’s story takes his reader through the life of a WWII solider who survived the bombings of Dresden. It could be argued that Billy is a reflection of Vonnegut himself, as he was a POW in Dresden locked in a slaughterhouse, making dietary supplements for pregnant German women. The story, however, is not straightforward or predictable in the slightest, lacking chronological order and incorporating science fiction. Billy’s discombobulating life jumps through and around time, ranging in scenes from Billy working as an optometrist in Illum to being abducted to a foreign planet to be observed by Tralfamadorian aliens while caged with celebrity Montana Wildhack to digging bodies out of Dresden’s wreckage.

Through Billy, Vonnegut raises questions and concerns about shell shock, reality, life, and war with irreverent and dark humor. As a result, Slaughterhouse Five has been taught in schools around the country for its incredible content and rhetoric. The next time you are browsing your local library for a rebellious story, pick up Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. I guarantee Vonnegut’s humor will bring a smile to your face and his story will leave you inquiring about events you previously took for granted.

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