Slaughterhouse-Five discussion guide:

A few conversation starters.

This Book is Banned_Slaughterhouse-Five: a Jumbled, Jangled, and Burned Book.

Use this discussion guide to inspire in-depth thinking, and jump-start a conversation about Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s groundbreaking novel, Slaughterhouse-Five.  There’s plenty here to set your mental wheels in motion.

  1. When people mention Slaughterhouse-Five, they typically overlook its subtitle – The Children’s Crusade: A Duty Dance with Death. In fact, recent editions tend to omit it from the cover all together. Does knowing Vonnegut’s subtitle change your interpretation of his book? If so, how?
  2. Why did Vonnegut promise Mary O’Hare that he wouldn’t write a book that had any roles for John Wayne or Frank Sinatra in it? Why was he concerned about a film version of his book? And, why do these two actors pose a problem for him?
  3. In Chapter 8, Vonnegut states that there are almost no characters in Slaughterhouse-Five. There are plenty of people in this book (human or otherwise), so what does he mean by that? Vonnegut also tells us that a person named Old Derby became a character. How did Old Derby become a character? And, now that he’s become one, what makes him different from the other people in Slaughterhouse-Five?
  4. Do you read Slaughterhouse-Five as science fiction, with a time-traveling protagonist who is also abducted by aliens… and if so, why? Or, do you see Billy Pilgrim as struggling with mental trauma that he experienced during the war… and if so, why? Then again, do we have to read Slaughterhouse-Five one way or the other? Why or why not?
  5. Why do you think Vonnegut repeatedly uses the phrase, “and so it goes,” throughout the book? What does the expression mean, and what point do you think he’s trying to make?
  6. What historical events were taking place in 1969, when Slaughterhouse-Five book was published? Do you think these events influenced the way people read this book? And, if so, how? Conversely, has reading Vonnegut’s book given you insight into some recent events taking place on the world stage?

Be sure to send us your newly-discovered insights
in the Comments section at the bottom of
Slaughterhouse Five: Jumbled, Jangled… and Burned.

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