by Kurt Vonnegut
Chapter 1 Summary
The first chapter of Slaughterhouse-Five is narrated from the perspective of the author, Kurt Vonnegut. He begins by telling us that most of the events described in the novel, particularly the “war parts,” are true, although he has changed all the names. In 1967, Vonnegut revisits Dresden, Germany, with his “old war buddy” Bernard V. O’Hare. Both Vonnegut and O’Hare were American soldiers interred as POWs in Dresden toward the end of World II when the city was annihilated by British and American bombers. On their 1967 visit, they befriend a German taxicab driver whose mother died during the firebombing. This cab driver, Gerhard Muller, is one of the two individuals to whom Vonnegut dedicates Slaughterhouse-Five.
Vonnegut tells us that he has been working on “a book about Dresden” for the last twenty-three years, ever since he returned from the war. He has found it much more difficult to write this book than he had thought it would be, and has had many false starts. Once, he drew a timeline of the story (beginning, middle, and end) in crayon on the back of a roll of wallpaper. He drew lines for each character, with the end of each line representing that character’s death. His own character line passed through the bombing of Dresden, and ended on a field on the Elbe where, as the result of a POW exchange, he and O’Hare found themselves on an American truck heading home.
Vonnegut briefly recalls several things that happened in his life after the war. He marries, has children, and studies anthropology at the University of Chicago. While in college, he works as a...Sign up to continue reading Chapter 1 Summary >