Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan: Page by Page, Chapter by Chapter Review: Chapter 5, Letter from an Unknown Hero

Summary of the Summary

Unk, the soldier from Chapter 4, meets his friend Boaz, who does not appear to be a good friend, and is apparently secretly in charge of the mind radios and Unk’s entire battalion. Unk finds the letter – written to Unk by someone cataloging their knowledge of Mars, while being subject to frequent mind wipes – which tells Unk about the mind control, the invasion plans, his best friend Stony Stephenson, that he has a partner, Bee, and son, Chrono, and that he should not trust Boaz. The letter was written by Unk before his mind wipe. After reading the letter, Unk learns the assault on Earth has begun.

Chapter Summary – 28 Pages, 11 Breaks

  • The Martian army is preparing to invade Earth using antiquated weapons.
  • Unk meats a man, Boaz, who claims to be his best friend – Unk passes out from his mind control radio after observing they may be the only two ‘real’ people on Mars and Boaz encourages him to remember his past.
  • Superior officers appear to be under Boaz’s control, not vice-versa – he is in fact not radio-mind controlled and is one of the commanders of the Martian Army.
  • Boaz is not himself sure who is in command of the overall army and there is quite a big of mischief going on – drinking, abuse of soldiers and generals.
  • Unk finds the rock that was told to him by the man at the stake, who we now know was named Stony Stevenson – hidden beneath the rock is a letter.
  • The letter is written by an unknown person who explains 158 things they have deduced about Mars to Unk – including that Stony Stevenson, the man he killed, was his best friend.
  • The narrator informs us that the commander of the Martian forces is Winston Niles Rumfoord.
  • Unk learns that he has a spouse, Bee, and a son, Chrono – the same name from Chapter 1, Page 34 of Malachi Constant’s future son with Beatrice. Unk learns that he is the author of the letter to himself, he does not connect that he has killed his best friend, Stony.
  • After reading the letter, Unk returns to his barrack where the war against Earth has been launched.

Page 105 – Begin

“Unk’s formation halted before a granite barrack, before a barrack in a perspective of thousands, a perspective that ran to seeming infinity on the iron plain.” Page 105

The flag of Ceylon flies, indicating the time period in which Vonnegut wrote the book.

“The banners signified the countries that the various Martian units would attack and paralyze when the war between Mars and Earth began.” Page 106

Break 1, Page 106 ***

“All of the Martian Army’s rifles were of about the same vintage.” Page 107, Vonnegut foreshadows the outcome of the invasion.

“There were three beautiful women in that paradise and Unk new exactly what they looked like!” Page 108, foreshadowing that Unk is Malachi Constant.

“Unlike the shoes of anyone else in the company area, the shoes of Boaz were genuine leather from Earth.” Page 109, we meet Boaz and it is foreshadowed he is more than what we are told.

“You and me – we’re buddies,” said Boaz. Page 110

“Unk had the eerie feeling that he and Boaz were the only real people in the stone building – that the rest were glass-eyed robots, and not very well-made robots at that. Sergeant Brackman, supposedly in command, seemed no more responsible, no more in command than a bag of wet feathers.” Page 111

Unk tries to remember and is incapacitated with pain from his mind-radio.

Break 2, Page 112 ***

“I told him to try an’ remember back as far as he could. I never dreamed he’d go and do it.” Boaz, Page 112

“He thought of explaining to Brackman that he hadn’t really tried to remember back, that he’d known instinctively that that was a bad thing to do – but that the pain had hit him anyway.” Unk on Page 113

“Again Brackman reacted to pain in his head.” Page 114, Unk notes that Boaz is controlling Brackman with his mind-radio, not the other way around.

Break 3, Page 114 ***

“Boaz did this, though he had no rank at all.” Page 114

“It is a freak of military custom that the lowliest private can command his equals and noncommissioned superiors to attention, if he is the first to detect the presence of a commissioned officer in any roofed-over structure not in a combat area.” Page 114

“He had a small control box in his right front trouser pocket that could make his squadmates do just about anything.” Page 115 – Boaz is in control.

“Boaz had no antenna in his own skull.” Page 115

“As free as it wanted to be – that’s how free the free will of Boaz was.” Page 116

Break 4, Page 116 ***

“Boaz was one of the real commanders of the Army of Mars.” Page 116

“You oughta see how we treat the generals, if you think you’s bad off.” Page 117 – Boaz to his troops as he has them standing at attention

“Seven times, Unk!” Page 118 – Boaz is frustrated it has taken Unk 7 trips to the hospital to get his memory wiped – msst men only have to go once.

“Boaz was reassuring himself about the buddy who was going to be by his side when they hit Earth.” Page 119

“Boaz now used three magical words that seemed to describe the maximum happiness a person could achieve on Earth: Hollywood night clubs.” Page 120

“Boaz didn’t even know who was in command of the real commanders.” Page 121

“Boaz based his actions, as did all the real commanders, on what could be best described as conversational tidbits – tidbits circulated on the real-commander level.” Page 121

“What the officers drank was a lethal green liquor made locally out of fermented lichens.” Page 122

“They had taken off in their space ships, their faces blackened, their dog tags taped so as not to clink – their destination secret.” Page 123

Dear Unk: – the letter began.” Page 124

Break 5, Page 124 ***

This section is an epistolary, that refers back to the title of the chapter.

That is the first thing I know for sure: (1.) If the questions don’t make sense, neither will the answers.” Page 124

If the questions don’t make sense, neither will the answers.

The Unknown Letter, Page 124 – The Sirens of Titan

“There were one hundred and fifty-eight things the writer knew for sure.” Page 124

(48.) Some other people have things that can hurt you in the head, too. You can’t tell by looking who has one, so be sweet to everybody.” Page 125

Break 6, Page 125

“Whenever I ask a question, and the pain comes, I know I have asked really good question.” Page 125

“Then I get answers to the pieces, and then I put the answers all together and get an answer to the big question.” Page 125

“Unk wondered if there were people who could stand more pain than others.” Page 126

“Officers are as mixed up and unhappy as anybody.” Page 127

“Psychology: (103.) Unk, the big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to beliee there is such a thing as being smart.” Page 127

“He couldn’t get over it, because he was supposed to know everything, and you weren’t supposed to know anything.” Page 128 – Stony Stevensons’s comments to Unk about the mind control.

Break 7, Page 129

“From that point on, the things known for sure in the letter were almost all introduced by phrases like: Stony says – and You found out – and Stony told you – and You told Stony – and You and Stony got roaring drunk out on the rifle range on night and you two crazy bums decided -” Page 129

“The letter said nothing about it, because the writer knew nothing about it, but this man and his dog were Winston Niles Rumfoord and Kazak, the hound of space.” Page 130 – WNR is the commander of the free-thinking men on Mars, he appears every 111 days.

Break 8, 9, Page 130

“Every idea anybody has comes from him.” Page 130

“And then all the people at the meeting pass around the ideas as though they had thought them up themselves.” Page 130

“(157.) Unk – you know why you keep on going? You keep on going because you have a mate and a child.” Page 131

Break 10, Page 131

“Unk had written the letter to himself before having his memory cleaned out. It was literature in its finest sense, since it made Unk courageous, watchful and secretly free. It made him his own hero in very trying times.” Page 132 – After Unk learns he is the author of the letter

Artwork – Page 132 – Unk’s signature to himself.

Break 11, Page 133

“The war with Earth had begun.” Page 133

“Brown man, white man, yellow man – surrender or die.” Page 133

Chapter End – Page 133

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