Ideas and Topics for Papers


1. Describe the Tralfamadorian philosophy of life. How do the Tralfamadorians describe the fate of the universe? How do they react to this vision of the future?

2. Billy thinks of himself as a prophet. Do you agree that he is? Is he in any way a Christ-like prophet?

3. Is Billy’s life in Tralfamadore heaven, hell, or just an extension of life on earth?

4. At the beginning of the novel, why does the writer-narrator compare himself to Lot’s wife, who defied God by looking back at Sodom and for doing so was turned into a pillar of salt?

5. What is the symbolic significance of telegraphs in the novel?

6. Cite evidence from the novel to support the position that Billy has lost touch with reality and that his time travel is just a function of his madness.

7. Billy is an optometrist whose job it is help people see better by prescribing corrective lenses. Does his profession influence his attempts to look at the world through a Tralfamadorian framework of ideas?


1. Read St. Luke’s Gospel in the Bible and demonstrate how it has influenced Billy’s “Tralfamadorian adventure with death.”

2. Research and describe the bombing of Dresden. Include information about the cultural history of Dresden up until the time it was bombed.

3. Research and explain the philosophical concept of determinism.

4. Research the Children’s Crusade and explain why Vonnegut found it an appropriate subtitle for his novel.

5. Research the type of twentieth-century literature referred to as “the absurd,” and explain some of the “absurd” characteristics of Slaughterhouse-Five.

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