Study Help Essay Questions


1. Discuss the paradox of free will and predestination. In Slaughterhouse-Five, is anyone able to exercise free will, or are all things predetermined? How would characters such as Bertram Copeland Rumfoord or Kilgore Trout answer these questions? Defend your answer, What about them would make them feel that way?

2. Discuss the meaning of Harrison Starr's proclamation that it is futile to write an antiwar novel. What does he mean when he asks the narrator, "Why don't you write an anti-glacier book, instead?"

3. The colors of the banners flying on the POW train and the colors of the tent set up for Billy's daughter's wedding are orange and black. What is the significance of these colors in the novel?

4. What is the significance of the colors blue and ivory, used throughout Slaughterhouse-Five? Other than orange, black, blue, and ivory, are there any other colors that carry symbolic weight in the novel? What are these colors' significance?

5. How does Vonnegut interpret Gerhard Muller's comment about their meeting in the future "if the accident will?" Why does Muller use the word "accident" when speaking of the future?

6. Why does Mary O'Hare berate Kurt Vonnegut, assuming that he is going to write a war novel whose heroes could be portrayed in a movie starring John Wayne or Frank Sinatra? What type of characters do these two actors usually portray on film? What is Mary O'Hare worried about?

7. In civilian life, Edgar Derby teaches a course called "Contemporary Problems in Western Civilization." In view of Derby's circumstances, why is the title of the course ironic?

8. How does Vonnegut express the Maori's death in terms of Darwinian theory?

9. How does the epigraph relate to Billy Pilgrim? Does the Epigraph relate to any other character in the novel? If so, how? If not, why not?

10. How does the cyclic poem about Yon Yonson relate to the narrative and structural form that Vonnegut uses in his composition of Slaughterhouse-Five?

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