Chapters 9-10 Summary and Analysis
Bertram Copeland Rumfoord: a history professor writing on Dresden
Lily Rumfoord: Rumfoord’s trophy wife
After she hears Billy’s airplane has crashed, the hysterical Valencia rushes to the hospital, ripping the exhaust system off her car in an accident en route. Immediately after arriving, she is overcome by carbon monoxide poisoning. Shortly thereafter, she dies.
Billy is still unconscious. He is sharing a room with Bertram Rumfoord. Rumfoord’s wife, Lily, brings Bertram books for the history of the United States Army Air Corps in World War II that he is writing. Rumfoord makes Lily read Truman’s statement on the necessity of bombing Hiroshima.
Although Billy finally regains consciousness, he says little and is believed to be a vegetable. Rumfoord finds him to be disgusting and wonders out loud why the doctors don’t let Billy die.
Rumfoord is having problems with his book because the parts on Dresden are going to be new. The Air Force and the American government had previously attempted to keep their success in Dresden a secret from the American public. After Rumfoord expresses his frustration to Lily, Billy says that he was there.
For a long time Rumfoord refuses to acknowledge that Billy is addressing him instead of echoing him. Billy finally speaks to him after a long silence, but Rumfoord doesn’t believe Billy was in Dresden.
Billy time travels to Dresden, where he is riding around in a wagon with some other Americans, looking for souvenirs. Billy is supremely happy dozing in the wagon. He is awakened by the voices of a middle aged German couple crooning to the abused horses. They get Billy out of the wagon and show him the horses’ miserable condition. This makes Billy cry for the very first time in the war.
After questioning Billy, Rumfoord finally accepts that Billy was in Dresden. Rumfoord attempts gruffly to sympathize with Billy, while maintaining the necessity of Dresden’s destruction. Billy agrees with everything Rumfoord says, adding that he learned that everything has to happen the way it does while he was on Tralfamadore.
Barbara takes Billy home later that day. He sneaks out and goes to New York City with the intention of spreading the good news about Tralfamadore. While he is there, Billy is drawn into an adult book store by some books by Kilgore Trout displayed in its window. The one Billy first reads turns out to be one he read long ago. It is about a man and woman who are kidnapped from Earth and put on display in an extraterrestrial zoo.
Billy also picks up an old girly magazine with a story about Montana Wildhack. Billy knows Montana is back in the zoo with their baby and not dead, as the magazine says she is.
That night, Billy manages to get on the panel of a radio show. When he finally is allowed to speak, he talks about his outer space adventures.
Back at his hotel, after being kicked out of the studio, Billy travels to Tralfamadore. He tells Montana, who is feeding their baby, about his trip to New York. She notices that the Tralfamadorians are playing with the clocks again. The chapter ends with an illustration of Montana’s necklace and its enigmatic slogan.
Vonnegut resumes the narrative, ticking off the deaths of Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, numerous Vietnamese, and his father. Vonnegut says that he would not be overjoyed if Billy was right and it were true that everyone really lives forever. He’s glad he has so many nice moments to visit. High among them is his trip back to Dresden with Bernard O’Hare.
Billy travels back to Dresden, where he, as well as O’Hare and Vonnegut, is pressed into service by German soldiers to dig out bodies from the rubble. They find many little pockets full of well-preserved corpses. Eventually the condition of the corpses deteriorates, and instead of being removed they are cremated on the spot.
During this time, Edgar Derby is shot for the theft of a teapot.
Finally, World War II is over. Billy is free. He walks out into the spring...
(The entire section is 2,285 words.)