by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

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Chapters 6-7 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 840

Billy returns, confused, to his German prison. He finds himself strangely drawn to his coat, which appears to contain two small lumps within the lining.

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The Englishman who broke Paul Lazarro’s arm returns to check on him. Lazarro says he is going to have him killed someday. After the other man leaves, Lazarro tells Billy that he is going to have him killed after the war, too.

Billy knows that his death is going to occur in 1976, after he gives a speech about Tralfamadore in Chicago. At this time, Billy has become very popular. He is shot by a laser gun wielded by Paul Lazarro, who has been hiding in the press box.

Billy comes back to life in 1945. He and his two companions leave the hospital and go into what used to be the Englishmen’s theater. An Englishman tells the Americans they are going to be leaving the camp. They will be sent to Dresden. Fortunately, they don’t need to worry about being bombed, because Dresden engages in no significant war industries.

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The Americans, feeling much better, leave for Dresden. They find the city amazingly beautiful. Vonnegut says it looks like Oz. It is the only big city in Germany that has not suffered a bombing attack.

Billy, looking ridiculous, leads the parade of Americans into the town. He knows it is going to be bombed in about a month. He is verbally abused by a German surgeon for his appearance. Billy wields the mysterious contents of his coat at the man, which turn out to be dentures and a two carat diamond.

The Americans are taken to the mostly empty slaughterhouse that will be their new home. They will be staying in the fifth building, which is called Slaughterhouse-Five.

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Latest answer posted February 1, 2012, 5:50 am (UTC)

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Chapter Seven starts in 1970, as Billy boards a plane full of other optometrists. Billy knows it is going to crash. As the plane flies along, Billy goes back to being slammed against a tree by Weary.

The plane crashes, killing everyone but Billy and the copilot. Billy’s skull is fractured. Thinking he is back in World War II, he tells his rescuers to return him to Slaughterhouse-Five. He is taken to a hospital, where he receives brain surgery. The next two days he dreams furiously.

In Dresden, Billy and Derby spend the month before the city’s destruction, working in a malt syrup factory. Billy eats the nutritious syrup. He shares it with Edgar Derby, who is working outside of the factory. This makes Derby cry.

These two, brief chapters follow Billy from the prison camp to the month he spends in Dresden before it is bombed, including information about the plane crash mentioned in the beginning of the story, as well as Billy’s eventual death.

While Billy’s war experiences seem real enough, his perception of time and belief in flying saucers is quite odd. Yet Billy is odd even as a soldier. In earlier chapters he has seen people haloed with Saint Elmo’s fire; he hears the objects in the coat calling to him and even giving him advice.

As the book develops, the timing of Billy’s time traveling episodes seems more suspect. In Chapter Five, he time travels when asked by Valencia to recall an unpleasant memory, and in Chapter Seven, Billy time travels in response to his precognition of the plane’s demise. Stress seems a possible trigger for Billy’s time travel, but it may not be the only reason they occur.

The exact nature of these episodes remains ambiguous. Chapter Seven says Billy’s time travels are true, which must be the case if he can see his death and predict a plane crash. Yet the fact that Billy’s skull is fractured in the wreck and that he undergoes brain surgery casts aspersions on his reliability. It is entirely possible that Billy hallucinates his death in response to the head trauma he experiences as a result of the plane crash. Even his daughter questions the timing of the plane crash and Billy’s decision to preach the Tralfamadorian way. Yet the text says his time travels are true and treats Billy’s seemingly psychic moments as unremarkable. It is therefore up to the individual reader to interpret the evidence and form his or her own conclusion about Billy’s perceptions.

During these chapters, Edgar Derby has remained generally static. Most of his actions have been perfectly in keeping with his description in the text, which says he is a man “mournfully pregnant with patriotism and middle age and imaginary wisdom.” In light of this description, the only action he takes, which makes him come alive, is when he cries when Billy gives him a spoon of malt syrup. He may be realizing that the truth of war is going to be suffering rather that noble actions. Billy’s gift is selfless and kind, and Derby’s response acknowledges that in times of war this is the type of action that is truly remarkable.

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