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Slaughterhouse-Five Notes on Characters

This section contains 2,205 words
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Slaughterhouse-Five Major Characters

Billy Pilgrim: Billy Pilgrim is the main character and the debatable hero of Slaughterhouse-Five. He is rather bumbling and funny-looking, almost like a puppet or a rag doll throughout the book. He is an unexceptional man, except that he has become unstuck in time, and consequently, throughout the narrative of the book, he spontaneously and uncontrollably time-travels throughout scenes from his life, mostly revolving around his experiences as a soldier. He is in his mid-forties in the book's present. He is a veteran of World War II, where he was captured and kept as a prisoner of war in Germany, where he witnesses the total destruction of the town of Dresden. He did not engage in any active combat; on the contrary, he fumbled his way through the war, starting off as a chaplain's assistant and getting lost often. When he returned, he went to optometry school and married Valencia, the rich daughter of the owner, who died of carbon monoxide poisoning on the way to see him in the hospital. After a plane crash, which killed everyone on the plane but him, he began announcing to anyone who would listen that he had been taken to the planet Tralfamadore. He preached the unique Tralfamadorian views of time and space and continues to do so, letting his optometry practice dissolve. People, especially his daughter Barbara, think he is crazy. He dies, as he knew through his time travel he would, of a shot to the head inflicted by someone avenging Roland Weary on behalf of Paul Lazzaro.

Narrator: The author explains in the preface that he is the narrator of the book. He is attempting to write a war book when we first meet him, and he goes to his war-buddy Bernard V. O'Hare's house to try to reminisce and dig up some memories for material. They did not think of much. He explains that there is nothing intelligent to say about a massacre because everything is supposed to be dead and can't say anything anymore. So he gives up on writing his war novel after the first chapter. The narrator tells Billy's story matter-of-factly, explaining all of the time travel, often adding his own appearances in the story, in the men's latrine and on a boxcar, for instance, and often adding his two-cents. The narrator is very anti-war and has forbidden his sons to have anything to do with it. The narrator has a unique writing voice made up of anti-war sentiment and subtle wisecracks.

Bernard V. O'Hare: Bernard V. O'Hare is the narrator's war buddy. They both fought in World War II. The narrator goes to see him to think up material for his war book, and they go to Dresden and other European cities. The narrator seems surprised that his friend has aged a lot, and he does not drink anymore.

Paul Lazzaro: Paul Lazzaro is a soldier who was kept as a prisoner of war with Billy and the other Americans. The narrator writes that he has the worst and weakest body of all the Americans that arrived at the prison camp, with his rotting teeth and bones and boil-scarred skin. He is extremely hateful and violent, and thinks there is nothing sweeter than revenge. He had revenge on a dog that once bit him by feeding it steak with sharp metal pieces, and he swears to avenge his friend Roland Weary by having Billy Pilgrim shot.

Valencia Merble: Valencia is Billy's wife. She is the daughter of the rich owner of the optometry school that Billy attended. He knew he was going crazy when he heard himself asking her to marry him. She is very, very overweight because she cannot stop eating; almost every time she makes an appearance in the book, she ie eating several candy bars. She loves Billy very much and didn't think anyone would ever marry her. She dies of carbon monoxide poisoning in her car on the way to visit Billy in the hospital after his plane crashes.

Montana Wildhack: Montana Wildhack is a beautiful movie star who the Tralfamadorians abduct in a saucer and take back to their planet to be Billy Pilgrim's mate. She is scared at first, but comes to love and trust him and eventually has his baby.

Edgar Derby: Edgar Derby is a soldier who is kept as a prisoner of war with Billy and the other Americans. He is old, but pulled strings so that he could fight in the war. His son is fighting in the war as well. He was a teacher before he was a soldier. He spoke up to the American-turned-Nazi-propagandist Howard W. Campbell Jr. when he came to speak to them in Dresden. Derby is eventually shot by a German firing squad for plundering a teapot from the corpse mines he was working in. This a potent memory for Billy and it repeats throughout the book, from the first chapter to the last.

Kilgore Trout: Kilgore Trout is the author's alter-ego, a mediocre and not very well-known science fiction writer. Billy is first introduced to his books by Eliot Rosewater, his bed-neighbor in the mental hospital he has checked himself into in his last year of optometry school. Rosewater is an avid fan of Trout's, and writes him unintelligible letters saying he should be the President of the World. Billy ran into Trout, who was bossing around the newspaper boys who work for him, in an alley and brings him to his eighteenth wedding anniversary, where the guests are all impressed that he is a real writer. The story of abduction in one of Trout's books suspiciously closely resembles what Billy insists happened to him on Tralfamadore.

Roland Weary: Roland Weary is a soldier who fights in World War II. He is fat and sadistic and hates constantly being rejected. He has always been unpopular because he smells like bacon even when he washes. He is wrapped in a ton of warm clothing, and as a result, he is very energetic and considers himself the leader of his group. He is traveling with two scouts when he comes across Billy. He considers the three of them to be a team, which he grandiosely calls The Three Musketeers. The scouts have no idea of this, and they do not like him. They ditch him with Billy, and while he is beating Billy up in his frustration at being ditched, they are captured and taken as prisoners of war. In the boxcar on the way to the prison camp, he deliriously and repeatedly tells everyone in the car his version of the story, convincing them that he had a wonderful threesome called the Three Musketeers, who did wonderful and brave things for the country and for God, and that Billy had broken them up and killed him. Weary dies on the boxcar.

Minor Characters

Gerhard Muhler: Gerhard Muhler is the cab driver for Bernard V. O'Hare and the narrator when they are in Dresden. He takes them to the slaughterhouse where they were kept as prisoners of war. He had been a prisoner of the Americans. His mother was killed in the bombing of Dresden.

Nancy: Nancy is the narrator's daughter. He takes her with him to visit Bernard V. O'Hare in New York.

Alison Mitchell: Alison Mitchell is the narrator's daughter Nancy's best friend. She goes with them to New York to see the narrator's war buddy Bernard V. O'Hare.

Mary O'Hare: Mary is Bernard V. O'Hare's wife. When the narrator arrives at their house to talk with him about the war she acts strangely. She reveals that it is because she thinks that they were just babies when they were in the war, and she suspects that he will write a heroic war book that will glorify war, making it seem like more of them should happen, and her babies will someday be sent into war. The narrator appeases her, telling her that he will subtitle his book 'The Children's Crusade,' which he does, on the title page of Slaughterhouse-Five.

Sam (Seymour Lawrence): Sam is the narrator's publisher. He has a three-book deal. In the first chapter, he announces to Sam that he is done with his war novel, since nothing intelligent can be said about massacre.

Robert Pilgrim: Robert Pilgrim is Billy Pilgrim's son. He was trouble in high school, but he joined the Green Berets and got straightened out. He fought in Vietnam.

Barbara Pilgrim: Barbara Pilgrim is Billy Pilgrim's daughter. She is very upset that her mother is dead and her father seems to be insane, with his talk of aliens and such. She tries to keep him from preaching his Tralfamadorian knowledge, even coming and retrieving him from New York when he goes on the radio there.

Scouts: The scouts are the two soldiers who Weary travels with. He calls them the Three Musketeers and feels a great bond of friendship, but they eventually ditch him, making Weary so mad that he starts to beat up Billy and they are captured by a group of Germans. The scouts are eventually shot by German soldiers and die in the snow.

Werner Gluck: A sixteen-year-old who guarded the carts in the slaughterhouse. He was a distant cousin of Billy's.

Eliot Rosewater: Eliot Rosewater is the eccentric millionaire who collects Kilgore Trout's science fiction books. He is an avid fan and writes Trout that he should be President of the World. Rosewater and Billy meet when he had the bed next to Billy in the mental hospital Billy checks himself into in his last year of optometry school.

Howard W. Campbell, Jr.: Howard W. Campbell, Jr. is the American-turned-Nazi propagandist. He speaks German and has written popular German plays and poems. He comes to the Americans when they are being held as prisoners of war in the slaughterhouse and promises them good food and other benefits if they join his group. Edgar Derby speaks up against him.

Lily: Lily is Bertram Copeland Rumfoord's fifth wife. She is much younger than him, pretty, and a high-school dropout who cannot read. She pretends to read Truman's statement about the dropping of the atomic bomb.

Wild Bob: Wild Bob is a colonel who Billy meets as a prisoner of war. Wild Bob is delirious and addresses Billy as if he were addressing his troops, most of which were killed. He tells them that if they are ever in Cody, Wyoming, to ask for Wild Bob.

Bertram Copeland Rumfoord: Bertram Copeland Rumfoord is an Air Force Veteran with many medals and a well-known Air-Force historian who is trying to condense the twenty-seven volume Air Force history of World War II into a book. He has a very young, pretty, dumb girlfriend, Lily. He and Billy have beds next to each other in the hospital. He thinks Billy is crazy and annoying and does not believe it when Billy says he was in Dresden. He thinks that the weak should just die. The hospital staff thinks he is mean and bitter.

Blue Fairy Godmother: The Blue Fairy Godmother is an English soldier who works at the pseudo-hospital in the camp for the prisoners of war. He is called the Blue Fairy Godmother because that was his role in the Cinderella musical that the Englishmen put on for the Americans to welcome them.

Guide: The guide works at the zoo on Tralfamadore where Billy Pilgrim and Montana Wildhack are kept.

Lionel Merble: Lionel Merble is Billy Pilgrim's rich father-in-law, Valencia Merble's father. He is an optometrist, too, and owns the optometry school that Billy attended. He is killed in the plane crash that only Billy survives.

Maggie White: Maggie White is a guest at the eighteenth wedding anniversary party for Billy and Valencia. She is the wife of an optometrist, and not particularly bright. She talks to Kilgore Trout, the science-fiction novelist, at the party. He tells her about his books, and he petrifies her.

Lance Corwin: Lance Corwin is a character in Kilgore Trout's science-fiction novel The Gospel from Outer Space. He goes back in time and measures Jesus Christ at five-foot-three.

Maori: The Maori is a man who digs out corpses from the ruins of Dresden with Billy Pilgrim. He is also a prisoner of war. He dies from too much vomiting from the stench.

hobo: The hobo is on the boxcar with Billy on the way to Dresden. He is either optimistic or delusional, for he keeps telling Billy that it is not so bad, that he has been hungrier before. He dies on the ninth day, and those are his last words.

Billy's father: Billy's father died when he was young. He taught him to swim using the sink-or-swim method, which consisted of him throwing Billy into the deep end of a swimming pool at the YMCA.

Billy's mother: Billy's mother appears several times in the book. She is not very religious, but played organ at church and taught Billy how. She bought him a gory crucifix for over his bed. She comes to visit him in the mental ward at Ilium, New York, and he hides from her because he feels so ungrateful that she gave him life and he does not like it.

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