Chapter 9 Summary

Billy’s wife, Valencia, has just learned of his plane crashing in Vermont. She adores Billy and is utterly distraught. She leaves Ilium and rushes toward the hospital in Vermont, driving the family Cadillac in a state of hysteria. She wrecks the car; the exhaust system is torn off. Valencia keeps driving anyway, arrives at the hospital, collapses onto the steering wheel, and soon dies of carbon monoxide poisoning. Since he is still unconscious after his surgery, Billy does not know of his wife’s death.

Billy shares his hospital room with a retired U.S. Air Force general and Harvard historian named Bertram Copeland Rumfoord. He is an aggressively masculine, wealthy seventy-year-old who finds Billy Pilgrim boring and pathetic. Rumfoord is writing a book about the role of the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II, and his 23-year-old wife Lily brings him research materials. One of these is a book about the bombing of Dresden in which the author argues that, though the destruction of the city was perhaps an unnecessary tragedy, the men responsible for it were “neither wicked nor cruel.” He also uses the fact that Dresden was destroyed by “traditional” weaponry as an argument against the necessity for nuclear disarmament, pointing out that the bombing of Hiroshima had a lower death toll. Billy’s son Robert, wearing several medals for his service in Vietnam, visits Billy in the hospital. Billy sees him but does not fully wake up or speak to him.

          Valencia is buried in Ilium while Billy is still recovering in the hospital. Billy overhears Rumfoord telling his wife about the bombing of Dresden. He has to include something about it in his book, but feels that “a lot of bleeding hearts…might not feel it was such a wonderful thing to do.” Billy tells Rumfoord that he was present at the bombing of Dresden, but Rumfoord refuses to believe him. The retired general cannot believe that Billy, whom he finds to be “a repulsive non-person,” could be serious...

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