WORD LISTS

"Slaughterhouse-Five," Vocabulary from Chapter 1

March 12, 2013
Based on Kurt Vonnegut's real experiences in World War II, "Slaughterhouse Five" is not just a war story; it's also a time travel tale which offers some opinions on the folly of existence.

Learn these word lists for the novel: Chapter 1, Chapters 2-3, Chapters 4-5, Chapters 6-7, Chapters 8-10
schizophrenic
Schizophrenic can mean liable to change unpredictably--this would fit a novel that has "no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects." Vonnegut could also be using the adjective to suggest Billy's distorted sense of reality. Schizophrenics used to be thought of as having split personalities, which could apply to Billy in different time periods and to Vonnegut's creation of Billy and a first-person narrator who are extensions of him and his own experiences.
THIS IS A NOVEL SOMEWHAT IN THE TELEGRAPHIC SCHIZOPHRENIC MANNER OF TALES OF THE PLANET TRALFAMADORE, WHERE THE FLYING SAUCERS COME FROM.
incinerate
He had a pleasant little apartment, and his daughter was getting an excellent education. His mother was incinerated in the Dresden fire-storm. So it goes.
soliloquize
There was a young man from Stamboul,
Who soliloquized thus to his tool:
“You took all my wealth
And you ruined my health,
And now you won’t pee, you old fool.”
elegant
Vonnegut is ironically using the adverb "elegantly" here. While drunk, Vonnegut's first-person narrator may believe that he sounds grave and elegant, but the people he's calling in the middle of the night would not agree. While sober, the narrator realizes this because he refers to his actions as a disease.
I get drunk, and I drive my wife away with a breath like mustard gas and roses. And then, speaking gravely and elegantly into the telephone, I ask the telephone operators to connect me with this friend or that one, from whom I have not heard in years.
irony
“I think the climax of the book will be the execution of poor old Edgar Derby,” I said. “The irony is so great. A whole city gets burned down, and thousands and thousands of people are killed. And then this one American foot soldier is arrested in the ruins for taking a teapot. And he’s given a regular trial, and then he’s shot by a firing squad.”
climax
As a trafficker in climaxes and thrills and characterization and wonderful dialogue and suspense and confrontations, I had outlined the Dresden story many times.
rabid
Mentally, Lazzaro is rabid about revenge. Physically, he is rabid from a dog bite that has infected his nervous system; additionally, he had suffered from many plagues of boils that made his body the worst of all the American prisoners of war.
The rabid little American I call Paul Lazzaro in this book had about a quart of diamonds and emeralds and rubies and so on.
covetous
He would peek into the bag every now and then, and he would roll his eyes and swivel his scrawny neck, trying to catch people looking covetously at his bag.
pneumatic
The stories were mimeographed and stuffed into the brass and velvet cartridges which the pneumatic tubes ate.
sordid
The Children’s Crusade struck him as only slightly more sordid than the ten Crusades for grown-ups.
solemn
History in her solemn page informs us that the crusaders were but ignorant and savage men, that their motives were those of bigotry unmitigated, and that their pathway was one of blood and tears.
bigotry
History in her solemn page informs us that the crusaders were but ignorant and savage men, that their motives were those of bigotry unmitigated, and that their pathway was one of blood and tears.
unmitigated
History in her solemn page informs us that the crusaders were but ignorant and savage men, that their motives were those of bigotry unmitigated, and that their pathway was one of blood and tears.
dilate
Romance, on the other hand, dilates upon their piety and heroism, and portrays, in her most glowing and impassioned hues, their virtue and magnanimity, the imperishable honor they acquired for themselves, and the great services they rendered to Christianity.
piety
Romance, on the other hand, dilates upon their piety and heroism, and portrays, in her most glowing and impassioned hues, their virtue and magnanimity, the imperishable honor they acquired for themselves, and the great services they rendered to Christianity.
magnanimity
Romance, on the other hand, dilates upon their piety and heroism, and portrays, in her most glowing and impassioned hues, their virtue and magnanimity, the imperishable honor they acquired for themselves, and the great services they rendered to Christianity.
imperishable
"Imperishable" has within it the word for die and decay. The bodies of the knights might have perished, but if that happened during a Crusade, they achieved imperishable honor. The choice of this adjective seems to emphasize that the original author of this example sentence (Charles Mackay) and Vonnegut/narrator (who's repeating it in his book) do not agree with this romantic view of war.
Romance, on the other hand, dilates upon their piety and heroism, and portrays, in her most glowing and impassioned hues, their virtue and magnanimity, the imperishable honor they acquired for themselves, and the great services they rendered to Christianity.
expend
Europe expended millions of her treasures, and the blood of two million of her people; and a handful of quarrelsome knights retained possession of Palestine for about one hundred years!
idle
They were no doubt idle and deserted children who generally swarm in great cities, nurtured on vice and daring, said Mackay, and ready for anything.
succumb
Furthermore, the stately Kreuzkirche tower, from which the enemy’s movements had been watched day and night, stood in flames. It later succumbed.
obliged
Friederich was obliged finally to give up the siege, because he learned of the fall of Glatz, the critical point of his new conquests.
devastation
The devastation of Dresden was boundless.
contempt
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.
titillate
The truth is death, he wrote. I’ve fought nicely against it as long as I could . . . danced with it, festooned it, waltzed it around . . . decorated it with streamers, titillated it ..
vile
These statements do not represent the views of Vonnegut/narrator. One clue is the phrase "as is well known" because one purpose of the book is to reveal what is not well-known (i.e. America's bombing of Dresden). The narrator also set out to write an anti-war book that questions humans' destructive tendencies, which could include questioning the belief in the righteousness of God's destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Those were vile people in both those cities, as is well known. The world was better off without them.

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