Chapter 10 Summary

The focus of the narration returns to Kurt Vonnegut speaking in 1968. Vonnegut tells us that Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., have both been assassinated within a single month. The body count in Vietnam rises steadily. Vonnegut’s guns, left to him by his dead father, lie rusting and unused.

Vonnegut says that if Billy Pilgrim is right and we all keep visiting different moments in our lives for eternity, then he is grateful that “so many of those moments are nice.” One nice moment Vonnegut recalls is his trip to Dresden with Bernard O’Hare, twenty years after the war. On the Hungarian Airlines plane, the two men drink white wine and eat salami and cheese. O’Hare shows Vonnegut a statistic that the population of the Earth will be over 7 billion by the year 2000. Vonnegut says, “I suppose they will all want dignity.”

Meanwhile, Vonnegut tells us, Billy Pilgrim is also traveling back to Dresden, but in 1945. It is two days after the destruction of the city, and the Americans have been put to work digging up corpses and disposing of them. Vonnegut and O’Hare are there. The prisoners are, essentially, mining the rubble in search of bodies—hence the term “corpse mine.” It is horrific work. One prisoner, a tattooed Maori, vomits himself to death. Eventually, the Germans bow to necessity. They begin cremating the bodies where they lie by casting flamethrowers into the holes.

Sometime during this process, Edgar Derby is caught with a teapot he has discovered amid the rubble. He is convicted of plundering and shot to death by a firing squad. Spring comes. The German soldiers leave to fight the Russians. The American POWs are locked inside the inn’s stable until the war ends. When they emerge, there is no traffic. Billy sees only a horse-drawn wagon; it is shaped like a coffin. The birds chirp. One bird says to Billy Pilgrim, “Poo-tee-weet?

Analysis: Chapter 10

In the last chapter, Vonnegut returns to the reality of the...

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