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In Chapter 5 of Slaughterhouse-Five, how does Billy's characterization as "the filthy...

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cenicienta | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted September 19, 2012 at 9:22 PM via web

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In Chapter 5 of Slaughterhouse-Five, how does Billy's characterization as "the filthy flamingo" deepen in this chapter?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 15, 2012 at 9:52 PM (Answer #1)

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Billy Pilgrim, the most unlikely hero (or anti-hero) there ever was in a novel, is shown to be even more of an outcast and an oddity in this chapter through the clothing that is given to him at the prison camp. In comparison with the other prisoners of war, he is given to wear a coat that looks as if it is something from a school drama wardrobe:

It was much too small for Billy. It had a fur collar and a lining of crimson silk, and had apparently been made for an impresario about as big as an organ-grinder's monkey. It was full of bullet holes.

Billy looks ridiculous in this coat, so ridiculous, in fact, that the Germans find this sight to be the funniest thing they have seen in all of World War 2 and the British soldiers are absolutely shocked and ashamed at the new depths of indignation that their German captors have made Billy Pilgrim sink to. The significance of this jacket is of course that it highlights how unlikely a soldier is. That Billy survives the war when he is so badly equipped, both physically and psychologically, shows the random nature of war. No wonder he comes "unstuck in time" as he wanders through his various experiences completely oblivious to what is actually happening, and many more able and better equipped perish through experiences that Billy survives. This chapter therefore heightens the characterisation of Billy Pilgrim through further emphasising how unheroic he is.

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