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Billy Pilgrim has become unstuck in time. He makes this known after becoming the lone survivor of a plane crash in Vermont. Billy is also insane. His insanity is the result of his experience in World War II. Billy Pilgrim was stranded behind enemy lines after The Battle of the Bulge. He was eventually taken prisoner and sent to Slaughterhouse Five, Dresden, Germany. While in Dresden, he witnessed the incineration of the city.
After the war, Billy marries into wealth, reads the science fiction of Kilgore Trout, and claims to have been kidnapped by Tralfamadorians, an alien race who explains the absurdity of free will and the intricacies of time travel.
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Keep track with this Slaughterhouse Five character list.
- Billy Pilgrim - the story's protagonist who claims to have been kidnapped by aliens and that he travels through time.
- Kurt Vonnegut - the author who appears at random moments in the novel.
- Roland Weary - an insecure bully who saves Billy's life, even though Billy doesn't want it saved.
- Paul Lazzaro - Roland's friend who vows revenge on Billy for causing Weary's death. According to Billy, he discovers through time travel that Lazzaro kills him at a convention in Chicago.
- Edgar Derby - forty-year old former teacher who is killed for stealing a teapot after the bombing of Dresden.
- Valencia - Billy's fat wife whose wealthy father sets Billy up in business.
- Eliot Rosewater - sleeps in the bed next to Billy in a mental hospital.
- Kilgore Trout - a science fiction writer whose books influence Billy.
- Montana Wildhack - Billy's mate in the Tralfamadorian zoo.
- Tralfamadorians - a race of aliens that kidnap Billy and teach him about time travel.
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Before teaching Slaughterhouse Five to high school students, I would strongly recommend sending home a letter to have signed by parents. The letter should indicate that the novel uses mature language and contains adult situations and may be offensive to some. Encourage parents to read the novel along with their child and notify parents that an alternative novel is available, if warranted.
- Slaughterhouse Five contains elements of science fiction. Try this writing science fiction lesson plan before or while reading the novel. Make sure students include time travel in their creative writing piece.
- As you read Slaughterhouse Five, mix in and compare it to science fiction short stories. Write a compare/contrast analysis. Ray Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder" takes an alternative look at time travel that provides an interesting comparison.
- Analyze humor in Slaughterhouse Five with this analyzing humor lesson plan.
Other Lesson Resources
- Teach Vonnegut's most famous short story, "Harrison Bergeron."
- Check out this Slaughterhouse Five study guide for more ideas.
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Book Review Ideas
This review is part of my lesson plans for Slaughterhouse Five. Have each student do the following after reading the book:
- Write a brief summary of the novel, 100-200 words.
- Write a Slaughterhouse Five character list, 150-200 words.
- List teaching ideas for the novel, 3-4 ideas in a bulleted list.
- Give each section a rating of 1-5 stars.