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Food for Thought. “Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘G– d*&% it, you’ve got to be kind.’ ”

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Food for thought
Food for Thought

  • “Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘G– d*&% it, you’ve got to be kind.’ ”

    --Kurt Vonnegut

  • What does this quotation mean to you?

  • If you could rewrite the last sentence, what would it be?What rule would you give to future generations?

Kurt vonnegut

Born November 1922, Indianapolis, IN

Cornell University

Majored in Chemistry and Biology

Enlists in U.S. Army

Served in World War II

Studied Anthropology

University of Chicago

Died April 2007, New York, NY

Kurt Vonnegut

Family life

Vonnegut's father

Fell into severe depression

Vonnegut's mother

Overdosed on sleeping pills

Night before Mother's Day 1944.

Themes in Writing


Loss of the "American Dream"

Family Life

  • Fourth-generation German

    • Children = Never exposed to heritage

    • Anti-German attitudes spread throughout the United States after World War I

  • The Great Depression

    • Vonnegut’s lost most of their wealth

World war ii
World War II

  • Experiences as POW in Germany

    • Profound influence of his writing

      (Slaughterhouse Five)

  • While a POW

    • Witnessed the firebombing of Dresden, Germany,

      by Allied forces in 1945.

  • Experience in Dresden

    • Basis for Slaughterhouse-Five

      • Published in 1969

Vonnegut on what he saw in dresden
Vonnegut on what he saw in Dresden

  • “The firebombing of Dresden,” Vonnegut wrote, “was a work of art.” It was, he added, “a tower of smoke and flame to commemorate the rage and heartbreak of so many who had had their lives warped or ruined by the indescribable greed and vanity and cruelty of Germany.”

  • Review: How would you describe the tone he uses to describe this event?

So it goes
“So it goes.”

  • One of many repeated, mantra-like words and phrases that run through Vonnegut’s books

    • “so it goes”

      • Became a catchphrase for opponents of the Vietnam war.

  • Why might this phrase resonate with an anti-war audience?

Life in tableaux
Life in Tableaux

  • Definition: A vivid or graphic description

  • Central Character (Billy Pilgrim)

    • Knows every event which has ever happened or will happen to him

  • Each scene in Billy Pilgrim's life

    • A tableau/scene/moment with an impact on totality of his existence

    • NOT how it relates to the moments immediately preceding and succeeding it.

  • The worldview of the Tralfamadorians (Aliens who kidnap Billy during the book)

    • Expresses how Vonnegut would like the reader to experience the novel.

Narrative flow or time s arrow
Narrative Flow, or Time's Arrow

  • Slaughterhouse-Five = a nonlinear work

    • Flash-backs

    • Flash-forwards

    • Changes in setting

  • Chapter Two starts non-linear structure

  • Non-linear structure

    • Holistic rather than Mechanistic:

      • Conveys experience as a continuous whole

  • Vonnegut always alerts the reader to the shift in time and space

    • As the flow of the novel were a tow rope which pulls the reader safely through a series of tableaux.

Diagram for structure
Diagram for Structure

  • The structure of Slaughterhouse-Five

    Each box = a tableau

    Numbers = physical chronology

    The line = narrative flow

Motifs definition

“So it goes”

“If the accident will”

“an old fart with his memories and Pall Malls”

“My name is Jon Jonson”

“And so on”

the smell of mustard gas and roses

The Children's Crusade

a dance with death

Motifs: Definition

Recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.

  • Look for and trace the motifs listed on the side.

Chapter one

  • Key to the novel is the opening section

    • Apparently, the author speaks in his own voice about a visit he made to talk with an old war buddy, Barnard V. O'Hare, as he was completing the manuscript for the novel.

  • It explains how the novel came to be outfitted with its subtitle

    ("Or The Children's Crusade | A Duty-Dance with Death")

  • How it came to be dedicated to O'Hare's wife.

  • Skepticism about whether there is any hope it might contribute to its intended effect