Chapter 4 Summary

It is the evening of Billy’s daughter’s wedding, and he cannot sleep. He knows that the Tralfamadorians are going to kidnap him. He watches an old war movie, which plays backward and forwards, while he waits. When the aliens pull him aboard their ship, they speak to Billy telepathically. He asks why he has been chosen for capture. They explain that there is no reason why and that “this moment simply is.” Billy is placed into a chamber filled with objects from Earth that have been collected to furnish his human habitat in the zoo on Tralfamadore. Billy is anaesthetized and falls asleep. He time-jumps back to the train car full of POWs in 1944.

The train car moves across Germany. Billy tries to lie down to sleep, but none of the other prisoners will let him lie down near them because he screams in his sleep. Billy is forced to sleep standing up. Roland Weary, in a separate car, dies of gangrene on the ninth day of the journey. He tells everyone in his car, over and over, that Billy Pilgrim is responsible for his death, and he asks to be avenged. On the tenth day, the train stops at the prison camp and the prisoners emerge from the cars. Their clothes are taken from them for delousing, and they are herded into hot showers and pounded with water. The guards make fun of Pilgrim’s weak body. The narrator tells us that one of the best American bodies belongs to a man named Edgar Derby, a forty-four-year-old high school teacher from Indianapolis who, sixty-eight days from now, will be riddled with bullets by a firing squad. The worst American body, says the narrator, belongs to a car thief from Illinois named Paul Lazzaro, who was with Weary when he died and who promised to avenge Weary’s death.

Billy time-jumps briefly to infancy, then to a golf course in middle age, then back to the flying saucer bound for Tralfamadore. An alien is explaining to Billy that their concept of time is different from Earthlings’ concept of time. The Tralfamadorians see time as a human would see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains: unchanging....

Sign up to continue reading Chapter 4 Summary >

Essays About Slaughterhouse-Five