These Slaughterhouse 5 quotes will show you why the novel has been called an example of “unmatched moral clarity.”
Slaughterhouse 5 also known by its alternate title, The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death, is a science-fiction-infused anti-war novel by Kurt Vonnegut. The book was first published in 1969 and chronicles the life of Billy Pilgrim.
The book starts with his early years and covers his time as an American soldier and chaplain’s assistant during World War II. It continues on to the post-war years, with Billy occasionally traveling through time. The time travel and sci-fi aspect of the novel is evident in Slaughterhouse 5 quotes which reference the Tralfamadorian and “Earthlings.”
The majority of the book is centered around Billy’s capture by the German Army. It also details his survival of the Allied firebombing of Dresden as a prisoner of war. The inspiration for this part of the novel was based on Vonnegut’s experience as an American serviceman.
The novel has been called an example of “unmatched moral clarity.” It is also regarded as “one of the most enduring antiwar novels of all time”. There are many Slaughterhouse 5 quotes about war and death on the list for this reason.
Don’t forget to also check out these Kurt Vonnegut quotes from his work and life.
Slaughterhouse 5 quotes about war and death
1. One of the main effects of war, after all, is that people are discouraged from being characters. ― Kurt Vonnegut
2. There are almost no characters in this story, and almost no dramatic confrontations, because most of the people in it are so sick and so much the listless playthings of enormous forces. ― Kurt Vonnegut
3. The nicest veterans in Schenectady, I thought, the kindest and funniest ones, the ones who hated war the most, were the ones who’d really fought. ― Kurt Vonnegut
4. All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true. ― Kurt Vonnegut
5. And what do the birds say? All there is to say about a massacre, things like “Poo-tee-weet?” ― Kurt Vonnegut
6. Before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn’t well connected. So it goes. ― Kurt Vonnegut
7. The umpire had comical news. The congregation had been theoretically spotted from the air by a theoretical enemy. They were all theoretically dead now. The theoretical corpses laughed and ate a hearty noontime meal. ― Kurt Vonnegut
8. The gun made a ripping sound like the opening of a zipper on the fly of God Almighty. ― Kurt Vonnegut
9. When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in the particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is “So it goes.” ― Kurt Vonnegut
10. The nicest veterans in Schenectady, I thought, the kindest and funniest ones, the ones who hated war the most, were the ones who’d really fought. ― Kurt Vonnegut
11. When a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist. ― Kurt Vonnegut
12. I have told my sons that they are not under any circumstances to take part in massacres and that the news of massacres of enemies is not to fill them with satisfaction or glee. I have also told them not to work for companies which make massacre machinery, and to express contempt for people who think we need machinery like that. ― Kurt Vonnegut
13. What he meant, of course, was that there would always be wars, that they were as easy to stop as glaciers. I believe that, too. ― Kurt Vonnegut
14. And even if wars didn’t keep coming like glaciers, there would still be plain old death. ― Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse 5 quotes about love, relationships, and looking back
15. She was a dull person, but a sensational invitation to make babies. ― Kurt Vonnegut
16. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves. ― Kurt Vonnegut
17. It was very exciting for her, taking his dignity away in the name of love. ― Kurt Vonnegut
18. And Lot’s wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that because it was so human. So she was turned into a pillar of salt. So it goes. ― Kurt Vonnegut
19. It is just an illusion here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone, it is gone forever. ― Kurt Vonnegut
20. People aren’t supposed to look back. I’m certainly not going to do it anymore. ― Kurt Vonnegut
21. All these years, I’ve been opening the window and making love to the world. ― Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse 5 quotes about America, Americans, and Earthlings
22. Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops. ― Kurt Vonnegut
23. America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves… It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. ― Kurt Vonnegut
24. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. ― Kurt Vonnegut
25. I am a Tralfamadorian, seeing all time as you might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. All-time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. ― Kurt Vonnegut
26. Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue. The monograph went on. ― Kurt Vonnegut
27. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact how hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. ― Kurt Vonnegut
28. The Population Reference Bureau predicts that the world’s total population will double to 7,000,000,000 before the year 2000. I suppose they will all want dignity; I said.― Kurt Vonnegut
29. “If I hadn’t spent so much time studying Earthlings,” said the Tralfamadorian, “I wouldn’t have any idea what was meant by ‘free will.’ I’ve visited thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied reports on one hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will.” ― Kurt Vonnegut
30. That’s one thing Earthlings might learn to do if they tried hard enough: Ignore the awful times and concentrate on the good ones. ― Kurt Vonnegut
31. Human beings in there took turns standing or lying down. The legs of those who stood were like fence posts driven into a warm, squirming, farting, sighing earth. The queer earth was a mosaic of sleepers who nestled like spoons. ― Kurt Vonnegut
32. Earthlings are the great explainers, explaining why this event is structured as it is, telling how other events may be achieved or avoided. ― Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse 5 quotes about Billy Pilgrim
33. Why me? – That is a very Earthling question to ask, Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber? – Yes. – Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment. There is no why. ― Kurt Vonnegut
34. If what Billy Pilgrim learned from the Tralfamadorians is true, that we will all live forever, no matter how dead we may sometimes seem to be, I am not overjoyed. Still—if I am going to spend eternity visiting this moment and that, I’m grateful that so many of those moments are nice. ― Kurt Vonnegut
35. Billy had a framed prayer on his office wall which expressed his method for keeping going, even though he was unenthusiastic about living. ― Kurt Vonnegut
36. A lot of patients who saw the prayer on Billy’s wall told him that it helped them to keep going, too. ― Kurt Vonnegut
37. It went like this: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom always to tell the difference.” Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were the past, the present, and the future. ― Kurt Vonnegut
38. She upset Billy simply by being his mother. She made him feel embarrassed and ungrateful and weak because she had gone to so much trouble to give him life and to keep that life going, and Billy didn’t really like life at all. ― Kurt Vonnegut
39. Listen: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time. ― Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse 5 quotes about life and humanity
40. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber. ― Kurt Vonnegut
41. There isn’t any particular relationship between the messages, except that the author has chosen them carefully, so that, when seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep. ― Kurt Vonnegut
42. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time. ― Kurt Vonnegut
43. I have this disease late at night sometimes, involving alcohol and the telephone. ― Kurt Vonnegut
44. There is one other book, that can teach you everything you need to know about life… it’s The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, but that’s not enough anymore. ― Kurt Vonnegut
45. If I am going to spend eternity visiting this moment and that, I’m grateful that so many of those moments are nice. ― Kurt Vonnegut
46. Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt. ― Kurt Vonnegut
47. How nice—to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive. ― Kurt Vonnegut
48. And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep. ― Kurt Vonnegut
49. I think you guys are going to have to come up with a lot of wonderful new lies, or people just aren’t going to want to go on living. ― Kurt Vonnegut
50. I wake to sleep and take my waking slow. I feel my fate in what I cannot fear. I learn by going where I have to go. ― Kurt Vonnegut
What did you learn from these Slaughterhouse 5 quotes?
Billy Pilgrim begins traveling through time after he is abducted by a flying saucer and taken to a planet far from Earth, called Tralfamadore. Vonnegut describes the Tralfamadorians as being able to see in four dimensions, which means they simultaneously observe all points in the space-time continuum.
The catchphrase of the novel “so it goes” comes from the Tralfamadorians. They have a fatalistic worldview in which death means nothing to them. Their response when hearing about death is to say “so it goes.” That line makes an appearance at the end of several of these Slaughterhouse 5 quotes as it pops up in the book often!
Billy’s story comes full circle in the book in a strange way. I won’t spoil it in case this sounds like something you want to read! However, if you are already a fan, you can share some of your favorite Slaughterhouse 5 quotes and sayings with us in the comment section below.
November 14, 2021 7:00 AM EST