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Week 5: Preparation

What do you need to do to prepare for the test in week 14?
(1) Obviously it helps if you've actually read the book - so, that would be my first recommendation.
(2) The reading questions are there to help you keep track of what happens in the book - I hope you have succeeded in answering them.
Before the test, read through your answers.
If (1) and (2) fail - find yourself a good summary on the internet, but remember you will get a number of questions in which you are asked to identify characters through quotes. If you haven't read the book, you will lose 5 points on that part of the test.
(3) Study the material under History, Philosophy, Postmodernism and Science fiction. There are no shortcuts here I'm afraid.
(4) It's not a bad idea to make for yourself (a) a list of characters; (b) an overview of the plot; (c) a list of themes and motifs. There are plenty of websites out there that can help you do that.
(5) In order to prepare yourself well, you may wish to think about the following questions:
1. What connections does the novel seem to draw between having "character" and having free will? Who are the real characters in the novel, if any?
2. Why is the Tralfamadorian idea of time incompatible with free will?
3. Does Billy Pilgrim exercise his own will at any point in the novel? If so, when?
4. How does the narrator counteract potential justifications for the bombing of Dresden within Slaughterhouse-Five? How does he represent characters who approve of this firebombing?
5. Which characters in the book glorify war? How does the narrator represent these characters? What kind of commentary might Slaughterhouse-Five be making on those who glorify war?
6. Why does Slaughterhouse-Five avoid any direct representations of the battlefield? Why should a book about World War II focus so much on people who are not fighting?
7. How does the Tralfamadorian idea of time appear to affect the very structure of Slaughterhouse-Five?
8. Why does Vonnegut spend time on the suffering of animals (the horses in Chapter 9, Section 19 and the frightened German shepherd in Chapter 3, Section 1)?
9. How do characters like Roland Weary and Paul Lazzaro add to the suffering of their comrades? Can we deduce anything about human nature from their behavior as POWs?
10. How does Vonnegut seem to link Christianity with suffering? Why can't Billy find comfort for his suffering in the Christian church?
11. Vonnegut may not give us clear-cut moral lessons (us versus them, Americans versus Germans), but he does have a strongly ethical anti-war message. How does Vonnegut present this anti-war message through Billy Pilgrim's plot in the novel?
12. Why do the Tralfamadorians not believe in morality? What do they have instead?
13. What comparisons does Vonnegut suggest between the Germans who took Billy captive and the Tralfamadorians? What significance might these comparisons have?
14. Billy is (obviously) a prisoner of war, but what else might we say he is a prisoner of? What other kinds of less-tangible confinement do he and the other characters suffer?
15. In what ways does Billy remain a prisoner of the Germans even after he returns home at the end of the war?
16. We know the narrator opens and ends Slaughterhouse-Five, but where else in the book does he directly address the reader? Why?
17. What value does Slaughterhouse-Five assign to science fiction as a genre? How does the book draw on science fiction conventions to make its own points about fate and free will?
18. How do Tralfamadorian novels differ from Earth novels? How does Slaughterhouse-Five mimic a Tralfamadorian novel?
19. We know that Billy Pilgrim, Roland Weary, and Paul Lazzaro are all fools, but what about Edgar Derby? How does Vonnegut represent his idealism and faith in truth and justice?
20. Who are the stereotypical "real men" in this novel? Why are they not fighting on the front lines? What kind of commentary might Vonnegut be giving about the realities of war?
I hope that you've managed to keep up.
I realize it was quite a lot of work, but if you have prepared well, you can confidently sit the test.
Those that did not prepare, will probably not even read these it goes.