Chapter 2 Summary

Chapter 2 begins with the declaration (as promised in Chapter 1) that “Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.” Billy skips among various moments of his lifetime in a “spastic” fashion, never knowing when he will leave one point in time for another, and without any control over the destination. According to Billy, the phenomenon keeps him in “a constant state of stage fright,” since he never knows what moment he will have to “act in” next. The narrator then provides a brief chronological summary of Billy’s life.

Billy is born in Ilium, New York, in 1922, a “funny-looking child” who grows into a “funny-looking youth—tall and weak, and shaped like a bottle of Coca-Cola.” After high school, he studies optometry for one semester before being drafted into World War II, where he serves as a chaplain’s assistant before being captured by the Germans. After his honorable discharge in 1945, Billy finishes his studies at the Ilium School of Optometry, becomes engaged to the daughter of the school’s founder, and then has a nervous collapse. After recovering at a veteran’s hospital, where Billy is treated with shock therapy, he marries, has two children, and becomes very rich as an optometrist in Ilium. His daughter, Barbara, later marries an optometrist. His son, Robert, after a troubled youth, redeems himself in the eyes of the world by serving as a Green Beret in Vietnam. In 1968, Billy is in a plane crash of which he is one of only two survivors. While he is recovering in the hospital, his wife dies of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. The widowed Billy returns to his home in Ilium, where he is looked after by his daughter and a housekeeper. Soon after his return, he goes to New York City and speaks on an all-night talk show about being abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore in 1967. According to Billy, the Tralfamadorians displayed him naked in a zoo and mated him with a fellow Earthling, an adult film star named Montana Wildhack.

Billy’s daughter...

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