Kurt Vonnegut and Bernard V. O’Hare go back to Dresden, Germany, on Guggenheim money in 1967. Before they leave, Vonnegut goes to O’Hare’s house and meets his wife, Mary O’Hare. Mary is mad at Vonnegut; she knows he is going to write a book about World War II, and she is sure he is going to make war look glamorous and fun. Vonnegut insists that he is not going to write a book that makes war look good; he will even subtitle the book “The Children’s Crusade.” This makes her like him, and they start being friends.
While in Dresden, Vonnegut and O’Hare meet a taxi driver. He shows them around the city and shows them the slaughterhouse where they were prisoners during World War II.
When Vonnegut returns from the war, he thinks writing a book about Dresden will be easy. He expects a masterpiece that will make him a lot of money. The words, however, come very slowly and he becomes “an old fart with his memories and his Pall Malls,” before he actually writes the book. He likes to call long-lost friends late at night when his wife is asleep and he is drunk, and he likes to listen to talk-radio programs from Boston or New York. He and O’Hare try to remember things about the war, and they have trouble. Vonnegut suggests the climax of his book will come when Edgar Derby is shot by a firing squad for taking a teapot out of the ruins in Dresden. O’Hare does not know where the climax is supposed to be.
Billy Pilgrim is born in Ilium, New York, in 1922. He is tall and weak as a child and becomes tall and weak as an adult. He dies in Chicago in 1976 and traveled back and forth through time frequently between his birth and his death. Pilgrim is in the infantry in Europe in World War II as a chaplain’s assistant. He does not carry a weapon and does not have proper clothing for the climate, which is very cold. He is taken prisoner by the Germans. Before he goes to the war, he is on maneuvers in South Carolina, and he is given an emergency furlough home because his father died. While in the war, Pilgrim got lost behind German lines with three other soldiers; one is Roland Weary. Someone shoots at them and Pilgrim...
(The entire section is 882 words.)