Literature Study GuidesSlaughterhouse Five

Slaughterhouse-Five | Study Guide

Kurt Vonnegut

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Kurt Vonnegut

Year Published






Perspective and Narrator

Slaughterhouse-Five employs a first-person narrator in Chapter 1, and this narrator is presented as synonymous with the author. Chapters 2 through 9 employ a third-person limited narrator, generally synonymous with the character Billy Pilgrim. In a few instances the first-person narrator inserts himself as a witness or participant in the action, but these statements are brief. The first-person narrator returns near the end of Chapter 10.


Slaughterhouse-Five is written primarily in past tense, although some paragraphs and sections are written in present tense; usually this change appears in the first paragraph of a chapter.

About the Title

Slaughterhouse-Five refers to a slaughterhouse in Dresden, Germany, where American prisoners of war, including Kurt Vonnegut, were housed during the Allied bombing of the city in 1945. This draws attention to a situational irony, one in which the opposite of what is meant to happen occurs: the men survived because they were in a place constructed for death.

Vonnegut's choice of subtitle, The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death, alludes to the disastrous Children's Crusade of 1212, a crusade enacted by young people to take back Jerusalem from the Muslims. This allusion emphasizes Vonnegut's opinion that wars are fought by those most unskilled and unprepared—that is, not by heroes but by hapless, duty-driven people who do their best to avoid being killed.


This study guide and infographic for Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five offer summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.

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