Slaughterhouse Five Chapters 9-10 Summary

     Chapter nine opens with Billy still unconscious in the hospital following his brain surgery after the plane crash. Valencia, hysterical upon the news of the crash, drives frantically to Vermont, and is in a car accident. She drives off uninjured, but leaves her exhaust system behind, and arrives at the hospital just as she is succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning. Valencia dies an hour later, while Billy remains unconscious, dreaming and travelling through time.

     Billy's roommate in the hospital is Bertram Copeland Rumfoord, a Harvard history professor who is working on a history of the US Air Corps in WWII. He has his young wife, Lily, bring him books about the war, and read him President Truman's announcement from after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, all the while Billy murmurs in his sleep. Barbara comes to visit Billy in the hospital, but when she arrives he is still asleep, and travelling through time. He has brief moments in 1958, during an optometry exam on a patient, and in a doctor's waiting room when he was sixteen. Billy awakens in the hospital in Vermont, confused as to where he is, and sees his son Robert, who has flown in from Vietnam. Robert is in military uniform decorated with medals, which is a contrasting sight from his teenage life as an alcoholic, criminal, high school drop-out.

     Despite regaining consciousness, Billy remains in the hospital and is mostly unresponsive. He is believed to be a vegetable, but he is spending his time thinking about the lectures he will give about flying saucers, and the true nature of time. While Billy is in this state, Professor Rumfoord speaks loudly about how Billy would be better off dead, and also to Lily about needing information about the Dresden bombings in his history of the Army Air Force, because the success of the operation was kept a secret for many years. This prompts Billy to finally speak, saying that he was in Dresden during the bombings, but Rumfoord doesn't believe him, insisting that Billy has echolalia, a mental disease that makes people repeat things that those around them say.

     Billy travels in time to two days after the end of the war, where he and five other American prisoners are travelling in a horse-drawn wagon back to the slaughterhouse for souvenirs of the war. Napping in the back of the wagon while the others go into the slaughterhouse, the wagon is approached by two German doctors who notice the terrible physical condition of the horses. When Billy is alerted to this, he bursts into tears for the first time during the war. Billy and the doctors unharness the horses, but their feet hurt too much to go anywhere. Shortly after, Russians on motorcycles come and arrest everybody, and two days later Billy is sent home on a freighter.

     Travelling forward in time to the hospital in Vermont, Professor Rumfoord is beginning to believe Billy, who tells him the story about the horses and the couple. Rumfoord insists that the bombing had to take place, and Billy doesn't disagree with him. When Barbara comes to take Billy home later that day, he is under observation by a nurse, and not to leave the house. Billy sneaks out when the nurse isn't watching and drives to New York City, in hopes of appearing on television to talk about Tralfamadore.

     While walking through Times Square that evening, Billy comes across a bookstore that sells mostly pornography, but with some of Kilgore Trout's books on display, one of which is called The Big Board. When Billy peruses the first few paragraphs he realizes he read it years ago in the veterans' hospital. The novel is about an Earthling man and woman who are kidnapped and put on display in a zoo on planet Zircon-212, where a fake stock market board and telephone give the Earthlings something to do to entertain their captors. Another Kilgore Trout book is about a man who builds a time machine to go back and see Jesus, in order to find out if he died on the cross, or if he was still alive when he was taken down. He brings a stethoscope to the crucifixion, and hears that Jesus indeed has no heartbeat when he's taken off the cross. While waiting at the cash register to buy the book, Billy notices an old magazine cover asking, What really became of Montana Wildhack? In the back of the store, he sees part of a pornographic film starring Montana, and a photo of a woman with a Shetland pony, identical to one Roland Weary carried with him during the war.

     That night, Billy gets on a radio talk show by being mistaken for a literary critic, and the topic under discussion is whether the novel is dead. When it's Billy's turn to speak, he brings up Tralfamadore and Montana Wildhack, and is expelled from the studio during a commercial break.

     When Billy goes to sleep that night, he time travels to Tralfamadore, where Montana asks him if he's been time travelling again. Billy briefly discusses seeing her in the movie, while Montana nurses their baby, and the inscription on Montana's locket is revealed to be the same serenity prayer from the wall in Billy's office.

     The novel's tenth and final chapter opens with an aside from the author, mentioning Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, both recently shot, and the growing count of military deaths in Vietnam.

     Billy says that on Tralfamadore, there is much more interest in Charles Darwin than Jesus Christ. The same idea appears in The Big Board, by Kilgore Trout, when the flying saucer creatures ask Trout's hero about Darwin, and golf.

     Back in the author's perspective, Vonnegut recalls the nice time he had visiting Dresden after the war with his friend O'Hare. Meanwhile, Billy Pilgrim is also travelling to Dresden in 1945, two days after the city was bombed. After being found by the authorities in the inn-keepers's stable, the prisoners were told to find picks, shovels and wheelbarrows, and take them to the ruins, where the prisoners of war are all gathered to dig for bodies in the rubble. At first, they use ladders to recover corpses once a group has been discovered, but as they begin to rot this task becomes more difficult, and eventually soldiers with flamethrowers begin cremating them. Edgar Derby is caught with a teapot he took from the catacombs, and is arrested, tried, and shot for his crime. Eventually, the German soldiers all leave to fight the Russians, and Billy and his group are locked in a stable in the suburbs. One morning, they get up to discover the door is unlocked, and that the war is over. Billy and his companions discover the abandoned horse drawn wagon, and the story ends on a chirping bird saying, "Poo-tee-weet?"



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