Slaughterhouse-Five Questions and Answers
by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

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In Slaughterhouse Five, what is the significance of the name "Billy Pilgrim" and why does Vonnegut put him in Ilium?

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Billy Pilgrim's name in Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five has definite symbolic and connotative meanings.

We can look at Billy as a common name for a common man that represents all men. We can also look at Billy as a child's name—a nickname or diminutive form of William. This interpretation is much more interesting because it connects to the subtitle of the novel, "The Children's Crusade." With the novel's autobiographical nature and Vonnegut's concern with the idea that it was almost literally innocent and unprepared children who fought WWII, this symbolic meaning to the name is illuminated. Billy Pilgrim was wholly unprepared for war: his uniform did not fit and he was almost immediately captured.

As for his surname, it seems to fit that he is a traveler. Pilgrims are known for leaving their homes for a definite purpose. Chaucer's pilgrims in The Canterbury Tales were seeking renewal and atonement at a holy site. Plymouth Rock's pilgrims were seeking freedom from religious persecution...

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