39 Slaughterhouse Five Quotes: Death, Art, and War

Slaughterhouse Five is an anti-war novel written by Kurt Vonnegut in 1969. It features the life of Billy Pilgrim, a boy who went from being an American Soldier to a chaplain’s assistant. The work has received praises such as “unmatched moral clarity” and “one of the most enduring anti-war novels of all time”. Check out some of the top Slaughterhouse Five quotes here.

39 Slaughterhouse Five Quotes That Will Fascinate Readers

Slaughterhouse Five Quotes on War

#1. “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

#2. “You know — we’ve had to imagine the war here, and we have imagined that it was being fought by aging men like ourselves. We had forgotten that wars were fought by babies. When I saw those freshly shaved faces, it was a shock. ‘My God, my God, I said to myself, ‘It’s the Children’s Crusade.’” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#3. “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

#4. “And even if wars didn’t keep coming like glaciers, there would still be plain old death.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#5. “It is so short and jumbled and jangled because there is nothing intelligent to say after a massacre. Everybody is supposed to be dead… everything is supposed to be very quiet… and it always is, except for the birds.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#6. “That’s the attractive thing about war, absolutely everybody gets a little something.” ― Rosewater

#7. “The city was blacked out because bombers might come, so Billy didn’t get to see Dresden do one of the most cheerful things a city can do when the sun goes down, which is to wink its lights on one by one.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#8. “Before you kill somebody, make absolutely sure he isn’t well connected.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#9. “I thought, the kindest and funniest ones, the ones who hated war the most, were the ones who’d really fought.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#10. “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

#11. “Trout, incidentally, had written a book about a money tree. It had twenty-dollar bills for leaves. Its flowers were government bonds. Its fruit was diamonds. It attracted human beings who killed each other around the roots and made very good fertilizer. So, it goes.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#12. “They didn’t think it had anything to do with the war. They were sure Billy was going to pieces because his father had thrown him into the deep end of the Y.M.C.A. swimming pool when he was a little boy, and had then taken him to the rim of the Grand Canyon.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#13. “They were going back to the slaughterhouse for souvenirs of the war.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse Five Quotes on Art

#14. “No art is possible without a dance with death.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#15. “When everything was beautiful and nothing hurt…” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#16. “One might be led to suspect that there were all sorts of things going on in the Universe which he or she did not thoroughly understand.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#17. “He did not think of himself as a writer for the simple reason that the world had never allowed him to think of himself in this way.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#18. “He had supposed for years that he had no secrets from himself. Here was proof that he had a great big secret somewhere inside, and he could not imagine what it was.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#19. “All these years, I’ve been opening the window and making love to the world.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#20. “What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at once. There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. When seen all at once, they produce an image of life that is beautiful and surprising and deep.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#21. “It is, in the imagination of combat’s fans, the divinely listless loveplay that follows the orgasm of victory. It is called ‘mopping up.’” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#22. “So, they were trying to re-invent themselves and their universe. Science fiction was a big help.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#23. “I was a writer on Cape Cod.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse Five Quotes on Death

#24. “’How’s the patient?’ asked Derby. ‘Dead to the world. But not actually dead. No. How nice – to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive.’” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#25. “The champagne was dead. So, it goes.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#26. “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

#27. “It is time for me to be dead for a little while – and then live again.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#28. “There were lots of things to stop and see—and then it was time to go, always time to go.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#29. “So, Billy experiences death for a while. It is simply violet light and a hum. There isn’t anybody else there. Not even Billy Pilgrim is there.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse Five Quotes on People

#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. “They do not love one another because they do not love themselves.” ― 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

#33. “People aren’t supposed to look back.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#34. “As an Earthling, I had to believe whatever clocks said—and calendars.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#35. “But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#36. “It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#37. “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

#38. “’The Earthling figure who is most engaging to the Tralfamadorian mind,’ he says, ‘is Charles Darwin—who taught that those who die are meant to die, that corpses are improvements.’” ― Kurt Vonnegut

#39. “You know what I say to people when I hear they’re writing anti-war books? I say ‘Why don’t you write an anti-glacier book instead?’” ― Kurt Vonnegut


The book is a fascinating read. Each of the characters display qualities that ring true to real life. Their conversations and Kurt Vonnegut’s discussion in the book itself strive to teach us of the fallacy of war and revolution. Reading books can give you insight into any particular matter, like Surprisingly! America has been at war for 229 out of 246 years. The quotes we chose were the ones that remind one of how people, art and war can change each other imperceptibly yet deeply.

Image source: Slaughterhouse Five photo from www.polygon.com