Slaughterhouse Five Important Characters

Billy Pilgrim

The protagonist of Slaughterhouse Five, Billy Pilgrim is born in 1922 in Ilium, New York. Described as thin and funny looking, Billy is an only child, and his father is killed in a hunting accident very soon before he is sent overseas to fight in World War II. During the war, Billy is woefully underprepared, and survives purely by luck. After being taken prisoner by Germans, he is sent to Dresden with other Americans, and is in the city when it is bombed into destruction by the Allied forces. Returning home from the war, Billy becomes rich and appears outwardly successful, but believes that he travels trough time between events in his life, and that he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. After surviving a plane crash and his wife's subsequent death, Billy becomes vocal about his theories about time and experiences on Tralfamadore, prompting his daughter and colleagues to believe him to be senile, despite only being in his late forties. Billy's is characterized by his experiences during the war and his seeming inability to consciously process them, suffering from flashbacks, unexplained emotional responses, and other symptoms of what would now be described as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Kurt Vonnegut

The author himself is also a character in Slaughterhouse Five, not only because the first chapter is told from his perspective, but he is also seen as a nameless American prisoner through brief flashes of Billy's story, and drunkenly misdials Billy Pilgrim after the war. Rather than this being an instance of an author randomly injecting themselves into the story, Vonnegut's inclusion of himself as a character who witnesses the Dresden bombings serves to remind the reader that there are aspects of this story that are decidedly non-fictional.

Bernard O'Hare

A friend of Vonnegut's from the war, O'Hare is visited by the author in the opening chapter, in the hopes of helping Vonnegut remember his war experiences. It is briefly described that they return to Dresden together after the war, where O'Hare helps Vonnegut collect facts and information for the writing of the novel.

Mary O'Hare

Bernard's wife, Mary is present in the first chapter when Vonnegut visits her husband, and is initially angry with Vonnegut because she believes his book is going to glorify war, which she says is fought by babies. The novel is dedicated in part to her.

Gerhard Müller

A taxi driver who drives Vonnegut and O'Hare back to the slaughterhouse in Dresden, the novel is dedicated in part to him.

Valencia Pilgrim (Merble)

The daughter of the founder and owner of Ilium's optometry school, Valencia is also Billy's wife and the mother of his children. She is described as overweight and unattractive, and Billy's proposal to her serves as his inspiration to check into a veteran's hospital after the war, assuming he is going crazy. Valencia adores Billy, and her accidental death occurs while she is driving to the hospital after news of his plane crash.

Barbara Pilgrim

Billy's daughter who has recently married an optometrist. After Billy's accident and Valencia's death, Barbara feels responsible for her father and concerned that his talk of time travel and aliens represents senility or a mental breakdown.

Robert Pilgrim

Billy's son, Robert is described as a troubled youth in high school, but straightens himself out by joining the Green Berets and fighting in Vietnam.

The Tralfamadorians

The Tralfamadorians are an alien race who kidnap Billy to display in a zoo on their home planet. They are two feet high, green, and shaped like plungers with a hand on the top and an eye in the centre of the palm. Tralfamadorians perceive time in the fourth dimension, which allows them to see all time as existing continuously and simultaneously. This idea of time as non-linear fits with Billy's repeated experiences of traumatic events, and his ability to be unfazed by death, as the dead continue to be alive in other moments. If the reader infers that Billy is suffering from delusions, the Tralfamadorians are a construct of his own mind, and a means to cope with his traumatic experiences.

Montana Wildhack

A famous young actress, Montana is brought to be Billy's mate in the zoo on Tralfamadore, and eventually bears their child. Montana, like Tralfamadore, is possibly a delusion inspired by Billy seeing her movies in an adult bookstore, and evidenced by her locket that contains the same prayer as on the wall in Billy's office.

Eliot Rosewater

Eliot is Billy's roommate in the veteran's hospital after the war, and is an alcoholic who finds life meaningless after accidentally shooting a fourteen-year-old during the war. Rosewater is depicted as intelligent, and is responsible for introducing Billy to the writing of Kilgore Trout.

Kilgore Trout

A slightly unhinged and very obscure author of science fiction novels, Trout appears in many of Vonnegut's novels. In Slaughterhouse Five, Trout's novels become a means of escape for Billy, and possibly serve as the inspiration for his delusions.

Roland Weary

An eighteen-year-old American soldier, Billy meets Roland while wandering in Europe before being captured by Germans. Roland is mean, obsessed with torture and torture devices, and is insecure after being unpopular throughout his life. Roland nearly beats Billy to death before they are captured by the Germans, and before he dies from gangrene, asks fellow prisoners to take revenge on Billy, whom Roland blames for his death.

Edgar Derby

A forty-four-year-old teacher from Indiana, Edgar is older than most soldiers, and purposely pulled strings to get himself enlisted. Edgar survives the bombing of Dresden, but is tried and executed afterwards for stealing a teapot.

Paul Lazzaro

Another American prisoner during the war, Lazzaro is a thief who is obsessed with the idea of revenge, and tells a graphic story about feeding a dog a steak full of sharpened metal points. Because he was with Roland Weary when he died, Lazzaro has vowed to have Billy killed after the war, which Billy says will happen in 1976.

Bertram Copeland Rumfoord

A professor of history who is working on a history of the US Air Corps during WWII, Rumfoord is Billy's roommate after the plane crash, and initially does not believe Billy was in Dresden during the bombings. His callous, detached attitude represents the role of historians and governments in distorting how "history" is portrayed.




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