In “Slaughterhouse-Five,” Kurt Vonnegut talks about Billy Pilgrim’s story. Billy can travel back and forth in space and time. He randomly visits moments between his birth and death. As a result, the novel does not follow a chronological order.
Here Is a Quick Plot Summary
Billy Pilgrim was born in the year 1922 and grew up in Ilium, New York. After enrolling in the Ilium school of optometry, he gets drafted into the armed forces during the Second World War. There, he receives training as a chaplain’s assistant. His father died shortly before Billy traveled overseas to join a Luxembourg-based infantry. In his first battle, he gets captured by the Germans. However, just before the incident, his entire life instantly flashes before his eyes.
Billy is taken to a German camp where prisoners of war are kept. Upon arrival, he suffers a breakdown. He receives shots of morphine that send him time-traveling again. Shortly after, Billy travels to Dresden in the company of fellow American soldiers where they have to work for their sustenance in various camps. One night, the entire city gets bombed by allied forces, but Billy and his fellow prisoners survive in a meat locker. Days later, Russian troops capture the city.
Billy goes back to the Ilium to complete his optometry studies. He gets engaged with the school founder’s daughter. However, he suffers a nervous breakdown that confines him to the mental ward. He then gets introduced to science fiction novels by a fellow patient. Eventually, Billy has gotten married and became very rich after his father-in-law jumpstarts him in the optometry business. However, at his 18th wedding anniversary, he gets a breakdown after seeing a barbershop quartet that reminds him of Dresden.
In 1967, after his daughter’s wedding, Billy got abducted by aliens who take him to another planet called Trafamadore. There, the tralfamadorians explain to him their perception of time and space.
Upon returning to Earth, Billy initially keeps silent. In 1968, he became the sole survivor of a plane crash, and his wife dies while coming to visit him in hospital. After his daughter puts him under the care of a private nurse, Billy escapes to New York. It is there that he makes a recording on the events that will surround his death. In the end, Billy claims that he will hear death’s hum and travel back to another point in his life.