Character Analysis in Slaughterhouse-Five
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Kurt Vonnegut's novel Slaughterhouse-Five is filled with intriguing characters, both major and minor. The two most important characters are:
- The narrator of Slaughterhouse-Five
- Billy Pilgrim
The narrator is an unnamed individual who stands in for Kurt Vonnegut himself. He offers an explanation of the purpose behind the story at the beginning of the book. He also offers incisive commentary throughout the text.
Billy Pilgrim is the novel's protagonist, the main literary character. Billy was a married optometrist who lived in New York. He served as a soldier during World War II and was a prisoner of war at Dresden. His abduction by aliens taught him their dimensional philosophy that causes Billy to see time differently. Billy's contact with the aliens dramatically changed his perspective. He grew fatalistic after learning the exact day and time of his death, which he does not attempt to stop because he accepts the alien's argument that fate cannot be changed. Billy's mental status is questionable. He may be going crazy or he may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Roland Weary and Paul Lazzaro are two soldiers who exert a profound influence over Billy's life. Roland Weary is obsessed with becoming a great hero. He also obsesses over violence. When Billy is in danger, Weary intervenes in the hopes that saving Billy will gain his desired heroic status. when Weary becomes ill and dies, he blames Billy for his death. Those words inspire Paul Lazzaro, another prisoner of war, to kill Billy as an act of vengeance.