1. Explain why Vonnegut has chosen to make this chapter the first of Slaughterhouse-Five rather than making it a preface.
2. Describe three different attitudes toward war described in this chapter. Who best epitomizes each view? How would you fit your own view into this scheme?
1. Explain the Tralfamadorian concepts of time and death. How do they compare to the Earthling understanding of these ideas? Why might Billy think that explaining the Tralfamadorian understanding of these two things might help his fellow Earthlings?
2. Examine Billy’s hallucinations and time travelling experiences while he is a soldier. How do they illuminate his mental state? How do they compare to the fantasies of Roland Weary?
1. Despite the fact that Billy is a prisoner of the Nazis, their actions are far more humane than the norm for World War II literature. Why does Vonnegut choose to depict the Nazis in this fashion? Compare the German soldiers to the Americans. How do their differences and similarities affect the message Vonnegut is trying to convey?
2. Explain the symbolic role of the hobo in this chapter.
1. Examine the repetitive imagery of Slaughterhouse-Five. What is its structural role in the novel? Choose two repeating images and discuss their symbolic role.
2. Discuss the meaning of the backwards movie Billy watches while he waits for the flying saucer’s arrival. What do Billy’s extrapolations add to the role of this film in the book?
1. It has been said that Slaughterhouse-Five is written in a circular pattern. Find evidence to substantiate this claim within the text. How would you describe the structure of this novel?
2. Does Billy appear to be maturing or changing over the course of his life? Discuss his character as shown by the novel. If Billy is not changing, what is moving the text?
Chapters 6 and 7
1. Discuss the religious imagery in Slaughterhouse-Five. Is Billy supposed to be a Christ figure? What is the purpose of the numerous references to Adam and Eve?
2. The comment that Billy dreamed true things after his brain surgery is highly relevant in the interpretation of Billy’s time travel experiences. What does it mean when the text says that his time travel experiences are true? How does this affect your interpretation of the underlying time structure of this novel and Billy’s reliability as an interpreter of reality?
1. Discuss the books of Kilgore Trout summarized in this chapter. How do they add to and support the themes of Slaughterhouse-Five?
2. Trace the sequence of Billy’s time travels in this section. Although is not supposed to be controlling them, what psychological desires might be motivating his transfers?
Chapters 9 and 10
1. The meaning of the bird’s chirp at the end of Slaughterhouse-Five is a matter of much debate. How do you interpret it? Is it the embodiment of the “moral” of this novel?
2. Discuss Billy’s experiences on Tralfamadore. What do they say about Billy’s unmet psychological needs?