Everything Was Beautiful, And Nothing HurtMarch 21, 1994
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. is not complementary to any of the characters in Slaughterhouse-Five; the attitudes entertained by the characters except Billy can be considered to be the ideas that Vonnegut does not like. Most of the women in Slaughterhouse-Five are stupid, materialistic, and treated as sex objects by most of the characters.
After Billy's accident, Barbara thought of herself as the head of the family; she had to take care of Billy whom she though was senile because of his accident and unconventional beliefs. While Billy was "devoting himself to a calling much higher than mere business," Barbara felt responsible for guarding his branch of the money tree. She would not let him send more letters to the paper because she feared the rest of the family would look like fools. She denounces all his explanations of Tralfamadore, as if she were omniscient. She treats him like a child: "It was very exciting for her, taking away his dignity in the name of love." This shows Vonnegut thinks women are too overbearing.
Barbara tries to take everything she possibly can on her honeymoon. This signifies how tied she was to material goods; she and her husband could not amuse themselves. This opposes Billy, who had one of his most happy moments sunning himself in Dresden.
When Barbara learns of her mother's death, she has to be doped up, "so she could continue to function, even though her father was broken and her mother was dead." Billy did not have anything to help him continue to function when he saw hundreds of thousands of people killed in the war, which shows that Vonnegut sees women as less able to handle losses.
Valencia was somehow crude; she snored "like a bandsaw." She "didn't have ovaries or a uterus any more." This does not seem to bother her; maybe losing her diamond ring would bother her more.
Valencia loved food, her family was rich, and she was a glutton. Billy thinks he is going crazy when he proposes marriage to her because she is ugly, fat, and the embodiment of materialism. When Billy gives her a ring for their anniversary, she says "Oh my God" until people start noticing it, because she has to show it off.
When Valencia says, "I never thought anybody would marry me," all Billy can say is, "Um," as if to say, "And I can't believe I did, either!"
Billy thinks it is "a simple-minded things for a female Earthling to do, to associate sex and glamour with war." Valencia asks Billy about war and places a hand on his thigh. It is simple-minded to associate the two because the purpose of sex is to create life and the purpose of war is to destroy it. Valencia demonstrated the idea in Trout's book, The Gutless Wonder, by believing that war is acceptable.
Billy is not truthful with Valencia; he denies that he is full of secrets, showing his negative attitude toward her.
Valencia was maudlin. When she heard Billy was hurt, she lost all sensibilities and her emotion got her killed. She is described dead as a "heavenly azure" as if to say that her death was an improvement!
By making his most foolish looking characters see women as sex objects, Vonnegut is criticizing the people who believe it. Billy, on the other hand, is not so obsessed. Before 1944, Billy "had never fucked anybody," and had never seen a naked girl. Roland Weary, who Vonnegut disapproves of, had a picture of a woman attempting intercourse with a Shetland pony.
Once Billy got drunk at a party for optometrists and was unfaithful to his wife. Billy and the woman were the object of disgust. This was not pleasant and he did not do it again.
Lazzaro talks about the "women he was going to make fuck him," says "Go take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut, Go take a flying fuck at the moon," and inquires, "Why don't you go fuck yourself." Lazzaro is obviously obsessed.
The clerks in the adult book store try to steer Billy towards the "hot stuff" in the back, even though he was more interested in Trout's book. Billy is "the pervert who wanted to buy the window dressing" because of his lack of prurience.
Maggie White was dull, and she had given up a technical career as a dental assistance to be a sex object: "Men looked at her and wanted to fill her up with babies right away." Billy also told of the "German colonel" with his "unpainted whore."
Lily Rumfoord is a pretty and stupid girl who Bertram Rumfoord is using to prove to the world that he is a superman by being the best at everything. This reinforces the idea that women should be pretty and dumb.
Billy's mother had a sense that religion was good, but could never decide on the right church to attend. She tried to make "sense from things she found in gift shops." She was spiritually lost. Valencia could not decide on something as trivial as a silver pattern: "It isn't something we should rush into," thus showing that Vonnegut thinks women are too indecisive.
As a child, Billy was treated with love by his mother. He describes how she pleasantly took care of him after a bath with words such as "rosy" and "sunshine." "Billy gurgled and cooed." Billy hated to be visited by his mother while in the mental ward; he hid under his blanket and was more sick until she left. This was not because she was defective in any way; his mother was a normal woman. Billy did not like her because she embodied the belief of sacrifice and he did not think himself worthy of it. He even calls her a "dumb, praying lady."
Vonnegut thought the women writers he called stories into while working as a police reporter were "beastly" and insensitive because of their low concern with the despair of others. They were so caught up in their job that they lost touch with humanity.
There are a few exceptions to this depraved picture of womankind. Vonnegut thought it was "lovely" that Mary O'Hare was a trained nurse, because she helped people live, not die. She was "polite but chilly" and banged ice in the sink, to vent her anger. Once she communicated her feelings to Vonnegut, she found they actually agreed. Vonnegut liked her because she hated war the same way he did. Vonnegut also loved Lot's wife because she had the ability to love, unlike the soldiers who thought "a loving Jesus" was "putrid," and the things she loved she could not forget.
Billy Pilgrim loved the image of Adam and Eve in the corporal's boots. Billy thought the thirty teen-age girls in the steam with no clothes on were "utterly beautiful" when they tried to cover themselves. Both of these were described as innocent and vulnerable, a concept Vonnegut likes; it is the antithesis of Roland Weary, a big bully.
In one of Billy's morphine-induced dreams, he sees himself accepted into a group of harmless female giraffes as one of their own. Their horns were covered with velvet; they were not used for fighting. This expresses that Billy values gentle, soft, harmless, furry women, with little horns.
Billy is gentle towards Montana Wildhack, and compares her to the beautiful architecture of Dresden, before it was bombed. She grows to love and trust Billy, and asks him to sleep with her. Instead of forcing himself on her, like Lazzaro would have, Billy is at least polite. The description of sex with Montana was simple and to the point with "heavenly" as opposed to the long drawn out scientific explanation of the crude act with Valencia.
At his anniversary, he hears a song whose chords are "sour, sourer still, unbearably sour, and then a chord that was suffocatingly sweet, and then some sour ones again." This sequence can represent Billy's life, which was mostly sour with a pocket of sweetness when he was with Montana on Tralfamadore. When she is pregnant and asks for a story, Billy makes an effort to tell the truth and not avoid the question, like he did with Valencia. This shows he values beautiful Montana more than crass Valencia. Montana Wildhack is wise in her acceptance that everyone makes mistakes and she must accept what she cannot change.
In Slaughterhouse-Five, beauty is only seen where vulnerability and innocence are shown and Vonnegut's attitude toward women is just an extension of this. Vonnegut obviously thinks that many women are stupid, materialistic, and viewed as sex objects, but these are character traits he does not value.