Literature Study GuidesSlaughterhouse FiveTitle Page And Epigraph Summary

Slaughterhouse-Five | Study Guide

Kurt Vonnegut

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Slaughterhouse-Five | Title Page and Epigraph | Summary



On the title page under his name, Kurt Vonnegut adds a few sentences to make the following points:

  • He is of German American descent.
  • He lives on Cape Cod.
  • He was a prisoner of war and a witness to the firebombing of Dresden.
  • The story is told in the "schizophrenic" manner of tales from the planet Tralfamadore.

The epigraph (short prefatory quotation) comes from a stanza of the Christmas carol "Away in a Manger":

The cattle are lowing
The Baby awakes.
But the little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes.


The title page declaration sets the stage for the novel that will follow: a tragicomic blend of fiction and fact that will not unfold in a linear fashion. By claiming his German American heritage, Vonnegut shows it is simply a trick of fate and heritage he fought on the American side of World War II and not Germany's.

The epigraph is part of a stanza of the Christmas carol "Away in a Manger," which describes the biblical birthplace of Christ in a stable. Vonnegut quotes the carol again in Chapter 9 when Billy Pilgrim, who usually "cried very little" cries over the suffering of his horses. He openly compares Billy in this way to "the Christ of the carol." Alert readers, however, will connect the main character to the innocent baby from the beginning of the story.

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