Slaughterhouse-Five

by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

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Chapter 1 Summary

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Last Updated on February 2, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 214

Kurt Vonnegut begins by saying that ever since he returned from Europe in 1945, he has tried to write a book about the bombing of Dresden, where he was a prisoner of war. He makes various attempts to map out the plot of this book, and he meets with his friend, Bernard O’Hare, who fought with him. However, his plans for the novel grow increasingly complex, and O’Hare cannot remember much. O’Hare’s wife, Mary, points out how young they were when they fought in the war, and this gives Vonnegut the idea for the subtitle of his book. He will call it The Children’s Crusade.

Vonnegut and O’Hare consult a book by Charles Mackay called Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, and they read about the original Children’s Crusade, which began in 1213. Vonnegut also reads about the history of Dresden. Soon after this, he finally begins his book, which he describes as “jumbled and jangled,” since he can say nothing coherent about the chaos and destruction of war. He ends by recalling the Biblical story of Lot’s wife, who looked back at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. He has finished looking back, he says, and promises that his next book will be more cheerful.

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Chapter 2 Summary