Slaughterhouse Five
Kurt Vonnegut
Contributed by Marinda Dreiling
Character Analysis
Billy Pilgrim

Billy is the protagonist of the novel. He is unstuck in time and travels to different moments in his life. He grew up a fearful child and was taken prisoner by the Germans during WWII. Billy was working as prison labor in Dresden when an allied bombing raid destroyed the city and most of its inhabitants. After the war Billy finished school, had a nervous breakdown, married the daughter of the dean of the school, became a successful optometrist and later survived a plane crash that took the life of all the other passengers. On the night of his daughter’s wedding he was kidnapped by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore and put on display in a zoo where he mated with movie star Montana Wildhack. He has foreseen that his own death will come at the hands of Paul Lazzaro following a speech in Chicago.

Valencia Pilgrim

Billy’s overweight, unattractive wife who loves him dearly. Valencia’s father sets Billy up in business and as a result Billy becomes very wealthy. Valencia dies of carbon monoxide poisoning when she rushes to the hospital in Vermont where Billy is recovering after the plane accident.

Barbara Pilgrim

Billy and Valencia’s daughter who marries young and then assumes responsibility for her father after her mother dies and Billy begins talking openly about his experience with the Tralfamadorians.

Robert Pilgrim

Billy and Valencia’s son who is a teenage delinquent but joins the Marines and returns from Vietnam a highly decorated Green Beret.

Bernard V. O’Hare

Vonnegut’s war buddy who also survived the destruction of Dresden. O’Hare is a district attorney in Pennsylvania when Vonnegut contacts him to see what he remembers of the war. Vonnegut and O’Hare have a pleasant trip when they return to Dresden after the war.

Kurt Vonnegut

The author of the book and also one of its characters. Not only are the first and last chapters from Vonnegut’s perspective but twice during the plot he interjects that he was present at that moment of the story.

Kilgore Trout

A largely unknown science-fiction writer who becomes Billy’s favorite author. Billy eventually meets Trout, who supports himself by managing a group of child newspaper carriers, and invites the near-do-well author to his anniversary party. Trout appears in several other Vonnegut novels and represents what Vonnegut might have come to if his writing career been unsuccessful.

Roland Weary

Roland and Billy are trapped behind enemy lines during the Battle of the Bulge and are taken prisoner together. Roland has trouble keeping friendships and lashes out violently when he feels rejected. Thanks to his father, he has an obsession with instruments of torture. He insists on pushing Billy to continue the struggle to return to friendly lines and after they are taken prisoner blames Billy for his capture. Before Roland dies in the boxcar on the way to the prison he makes Paul Lazzaro promise to kill Billy for him.

Paul Lazzaro

Holds the dying Weary in his arms and promises to revenge his death by killing Billy Pilgrim. Lazzaro is a vengeful ex-car thief whom Vonnegut characterizes as akin to a rabid dog. While recovering from a broken arm after trying to steal cigarettes, Lazzaro tells Billy that he will kill him at some point and that Billy should relax and enjoy the time he has left.

Edgar Derby

A high school teacher who is one of the POWs in Billy’s group. Derby is the oldest of the POWs and he assumes responsibility for their well being. According to Vonnegut he is the only true character in the novel and his best moment is when he rebukes the recruiting efforts of Nazi sympathizer Howard W. Campbell, Jr. Derby’s death at the hands of a German firing squad for stealing a teapot, while never fully described serves as the novel’s climax.

Eliot Rosewater

Shares a room with Billy in the psychiatric hospital where he introduces Billy to the works of Kilgore Trout. Rosewater is the protagonist of another Vonnegut novel God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.

Howard W. Campbell, Jr.

An American playwright who serves the Nazis by composing and publishing anti-American propaganda. Edgar Derby rebukes him when he tries to convince the POW’s to join the Nazi army. Campbell is the protagonist of another Vonnegut novel Mother Night.

Montana Wildhack

A pornographic movie starlet kidnapped at age twenty by the Tralfamadorians to be Billy’s mate. She and Billy learn to trust each other and they have a child while on display in the zoo. While in New York Billy sees a blue movie staring Montana and reads a magazine article that suggests she was killed by the mob but he knows she is on Tralfamadore.

Bertram Copeland Rumfoord

An extremely virile and outgoing septuagenarian who shares a hospital room with Billy after the plane crash. Rumfoord, who is recovering from a skiing accident, is working on a history of the U.S. airforce and though he initially detests and mistrusts Billy he comes to believe that Billy was in Dresden at the time of its destruction.

Lily Rumfoord

Bertram’s very young, very beautiful very dim wife.

Werner Gluck

A teenage guard in Dresden who is Billy’s distant cousin though neither of them know it.

Holden Caulfield: 

Holden is six feet two and has grown six and a half inches in the last year. He’s a heavy smoker and wears his hair in a crew cut. People mistake him for being 13 even though he’s 16 and has a headful of gray hair. Holden’s appearance is that of an adolescent who’s not just too young or too old for his age, but somehow both at once. Holden has just failed out of Pencey Prep. The only subject he passed was English, as he reads a lot on his own. The novel follows Holden’s last few days at Pencey and the events that happen afterward, which lead to his hospitalization and psychoanalysis. The Catcher in the Rye is the story of Holden Caulfield during these crucial days, as told by Holden.

Mr. Spencer: 

Holden’s history teacher at Pencey Prep. He is at home in a bathrobe, suffering from a cold when Holden visits him for the last time. Holden wants to say goodbye to Mr. Spencer, but then regrets his choice when Mr. Spencer grills him about his future.

Robert Ackley: 

Holden’s next door neighbor in his dorm at Pencey Prep, he is a brash and annoying guy. Holden simply puts up with Ackley’s disgusting habits and bad behavior. Ackley says he hates just about everyone, but he honestly dislikes Stradlater, Holden’s roommate, and will leave the room whenever he shows up.

Stradlater: 

Holden’s roommate at Pencey Prep. Holden calls him a ’secret slob,’ because, although he is handsome and well kept, his razor is rusted and cruddy. Stradlater often walks around without a shirt on and is popular with the girls. When he goes on a date with Jane Gallagher, Holden becomes extremely agitated, because Stradlater is extremely forward with his dates.

Jane Gallagher: 

A girl who used to live near Holden and played checkers with him two summers ago. She danced ballet and had trouble with her ’booze hound’ father.-She had a ’lousy childhood’ according to Holden, who cares for her a great deal. When Holden finds out Jane is going on a date with the sexually-experienced Stradlater, he becomes agitated.

Phoebe Caulfield: 

Holden’s younger sister, Phoebe is a smart kid, and she and Holden mutually adore and respect each other. Holden thinks about Phoebe many times during his time in New York City, and finally risks getting caught by his parents to sneak into their apartment and visit her. When Holden says he’s leaving to go West, Phoebe packs her bags and demands to come along. For some reason, this seems to convince Holden that neither of them needs to be running away.

Allie Caulfield: 

Holden’s younger brother by two years, Allie died of leukemia, which distressed Holden to the point that he punched out all the windows in the garage. Allie had bright red hair and had written poems all over his baseball mitt so he would have something to read on the field. Holden remembers him as extremely kind and intelligent.

Mrs. Morrow: 

The mother of Ernest Morrow (a Pencey student). Holden has a long conversation with her on the train as he leaves Pencey for good. Holden tells Mrs. Morrow a number of lies about how great her son is, even though Holden thinks Ernest is a bastard.

Sally Hayes: 

Holden’s girlfriend, or at least a girl he’s had a few dates with, at the beginning of the story. By the end of the story, she’s presumably not his girlfriend anymore. Holden finds Sally cute, but a bit phony. He goes on a disastrous date with Sally when he’s in the city, but is so lonely and physically attracted that he asks her to run away with him.

Carl Luce:

A rather affected older boy that Holden knew from one of his old schools. Holden calls Luce and asks him to have a few drinks with him in the city. Luce concedes, but clearly finds Holden silly and immature, and he leaves Holden in the bar after advising it might be helpful for him to see a psychoanalyst.

Mr. Antolini: 

A favorite ex-English teacher of Holden’s. Holden calls Mr. Antolini after his lousy time with Luce, and Mr. Antolini takes him in for the evening. He seems kind and concerned, and gives Holden some advice about keeping his head up. Holden flees Antolini’s apartment in the middle of the night, however, after he wakes up to find the teacher patting his head, fearing it is some ’perverty’ move.

Sunny: 

A young prostitute that Holden buys some time with at the Edmont Hotel. Holden is too overwhelmed by Sunny’s humanity and his own virginity to go through with the act.

James Castle:

An often-teased boy from one of Holden’s old schools who committed suicide.

B. Caulfield: 

Holden’s older brother, a writer in Hollywood. Holden admired D. B.’s first book of short stories, The Secret Goldfish, but he is unhappy with D. B. for selling out to make movies in Hollywood.

Ossenburger: 

An alumnus of Pencey Prep and the penultimate phony as far as Holden is concerned.

Mal Brossard: 

A friend of Holden’s at Pencey Prep. Mal, Holden and Robert Ackley go into town together one Saturday night.

Rudolph Schmidt: 

The pseudonym by which Holden introduces himself to Mrs. Morrow. Schmidt is a janitor at Pencey.

Faith Cavendish: 

A girl whose phone number Holden’s gotten from a friend. She’s rumored to be loose, and Holden gives her a call his first night in the city, but they never meet up.

Lillian Simmons: 

One of D.B.’s old flings. Holden sees Lillian at a bar in the city with a Navy boyfriend.

Bernice, Marty and Lauren: 

Three women from Seattle that Holden meets in the Edmont Hotel bar.

Ernie: 

An overly polished and pretentious piano player at a bar where Holden spends his evening.

Maurice: 

The elevator man at the Edmont Hotel. Maurice is also Sunny’s pimp.

the nuns: 

Holden has a nice conversation with two nuns/teachers at a coffee shop.

Horowitz: 

A crazy cab driver that Holden gets talking about the wintertime fate of the Central Park ducks.

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