The novelist inserts himself in the sections of Chapters One and Ten that frame Billy Pilgrim's story. For many years, Vonnegut tried to write a book about Dresden but found himself unable to handle the project. He appears within the Billy Pilgrim story very briefly, in the literary equivalent of a cameo. The framing sections are vital in clarifying Vonnegut's goals in writing the novel, among them the publication of an anti-war book.
Vonnegut's old war buddy, captured with him and held as a POW in Dresden. Vonnegut looks him up years later so that they can reminisce about their war experiences. But the two men find they cannot remember anything good.
The novel is dedicated to her. She is Bernard's wife and she initially views Vonnegut's novel-in-progress critically, worrying that he will write a book that glorifies war.
An unconventional protagonist for a war novel, Billy is weak, passive, and often ridiculous. He is totally unsuited for war, and he nearly dies wandering behind German lines during the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, he becomes an optometrist, marries a rich girl, and comes to believe that he has been abducted by aliens called Trafalmadorians. He is "unstuck in time," meaning that he experiences the events of his life out of order again and again.
An anti-tank gunner who gets captured with Billy. Deeply lonely, he imagines war stories full of camaraderie and adventure. Dumb, fat, and cruel, he dies of gangrene and blames Billy.
Referred to consistently as "poor Edgar Derby" or "poor old Edgar Derby," Derby is a forty-four-year-old who had to pull strings to be allowed to fight. Back home, he is a high school teacher. He is shot after the Dresden bombing for stealing a teapot.
Tiny, weak, physically repulsive, Lazarro is foul-tempered and cruel. He talks about tracking down people after the war to send hitmen after them. He holds that revenge is life's sweetest pleasure.
Billy's wife. She is the overweight daughter of the owner of Billy's optometry school. She is completely devoted to Billy. When Billy is injured in a plane crash, she dies of carbon monoxide poisoning on the way to the hospital.
Billy's daughter. She is responsible for him after his injuries and Valencia's death, and the burden makes her resentful and picky.
Billy's son. Through he was a troublemaker in high school, Robert goes on to be a Green Beret who fights in Vietnam.
Slaughterhouse Five Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Slaughterhouse Five is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Slaughterhouse-Five actually has a few different meanings in terms of the novel. It is the name of the prison in which Billy and the other POWs are kept (the prison is a slaughterhouse). It is also a metaphor for the way in which Vonnegut sees...