10H – 21-22 May 2014 – Slaughterhouse Five Ch 2-4

Wednesday – reading day for Chapters 2-4. The journal prompt:

As you read Chapters 2-4 of SH5,  Identify the motifs that emerge.  What images, objects, pictures, or sensory details get repeated again and again?  Note the page number and context of the various mentions of the motifs.  Based on that, try to piece together what the motif is supposed to say.  For example:

Motif: Orange and Black stripes:

·   On the POW car, p ____

·   On Billy’s daughter’s wedding tent, p_____

Both of these images connect being a prisoner with marriage, and both prison and marriage force people into a kind of intimate familiarity with each others’ bodies.  Is it possible that the mustard gas/roses motif also ties to this?

In class THURSDAY, you’ll take a short reading quiz, and then we’ll talk about what caught you, what motifs you noticed, what concerned or interested you.

Lastly, I’ll have you start compiling examples of two things:

  • IRONY so far in the text
  • What dies for various SO IT GOES refrains

My hope is that by seeing these lists, we’ll be able to make sense of what Vonnegut is saying with each.


6 thoughts on “10H – 21-22 May 2014 – Slaughterhouse Five Ch 2-4

  1. Something I tracked was the repetition of the word jiggled. He uses this word normally when Billy is feeling and going to sleep. He does it when he’s sad at his house and when he’s sad during the war.

  2. Many times while Billy was walking with the Three Musketeers it said he was bobbing up-and-down while he walked, and like you said in class that makes a funny image. But I don’t think Vonnegut would have something in there just to be funny. Most things have a meaning AND are funny, so I was wondering what (if anything) this could be.

  3. Something I noticed was the use of blue and ivory to describe bare feet, and the mention of feet in general. At first “blue and ivory” seemed like a weird way to describe the color of feet, but they can be the palest part of the body (ivory), which makes the veins to our toes even more pronounce (blue). He used these same colors to describe the feet of corpses once, but I don’t know if that’s enough to connect the colors to death. Blue and ivory are pretty standard colors for corpses, though…if blue and ivory are somehow connected to death, what is Vonnegut’s message between feet and death? Weary dies because of his ill-fitting shoes and Billy’s feet are described more than once as blue and ivory before he is taken to Tralfamadore. Maybe Vonnegut is a firm believer in proper footwear, but there’s probably more to it than that.

  4. Vonnegut keeps telling us short stories describing people’s lives before telling us later that they died. It makes it much more personal and noticeable if you know something about the character who died. They are not just a statistic, but a tragedy.

  5. I noticed there were quite a few times when Billy heard a big dog barking. The first time is when the scouts hear it, and know the German soldiers are close, and start to leave Billy and Weary. Then Billy hears it, “with the help of fear and echos and winter silences, that dog had a voice like a big bronze gong.” Here, its like Billy thought the dog was a good thing because it was a break in the fear and silence. That would be weird though because the dog is with the Germans, who then take him prisoner. So how does Billy really feel about being being captured? A little while later, he says how Weary barked and whimpered. Is her comparing him to the dog? Then he takes time to describe the dog as a shivering, with its tale between its legs. This isn’t nearly as threatening as they were expecting. The next time he hears a dog if right before the saucer from Tralfamadore lands in his backyard. Then, on page 82 he repeats the EXACT same passage from page 48, about fear and echos and winter silence and the dogs bark sounding like a gong. This time, it’s as he’s going into the POW camp. Again, comparing the dog’s bark to a bronze gong, it seems like a good thing. Maybe he is saying he would rather be in the POW camp than on the train, which would make sense. This leads me to think that the dog is a sign that better times are ahead.

  6. One thing I tracked was the idea of death associated with religion or god. Something Foster would notice is when Billy was trapped in the train for days. He was practically dying and was released just in time. Vonnegut writes, “Billy Pilgrim was self-crucified, holding himself there with a blue and ivory claw hooked over the sill of the ventilator.” This compares to the idea of Jesus rising from the dead. This idea can transfer to the idea of a new life for Billy, the one where he flashes back to war all the time and the nightmares haunt him.

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