Slaughterhouse-Five

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Bertram C. Rumfoord Character Analysis

A 70-year-old Harvard professor and the official Air Force Historian, Bertram C. Rumfoord recuperates from a skiing injury in the bed next to Billy, who has recently been in his plane crash. Rumfoord at first does not believe that Billy was present at the firebombing of Dresden, and only grudgingly acknowledges the horrors Billy must have seen.

Bertram C. Rumfoord Quotes in Slaughterhouse-Five

The Slaughterhouse-Five quotes below are all either spoken by Bertram C. Rumfoord or refer to Bertram C. Rumfoord. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
War and Death Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dell edition of Slaughterhouse-Five published in 1991.
Chapter 9 Quotes

The staff thought Rumfoord was a hateful old man, conceited and cruel. He often said to them . . . that people who were weak deserved to die. Whereas the staff, of course, was devoted to the idea that weak people should be helped as much as possible, that nobody should die.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Bertram C. Rumfoord
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:

Rumfoord, an army general who has been laid up in the hospital alongside others who have been wounded, has a theory of human strength and weakness that one finds throughout Vonnegut's novel - a theory that Vonnegut vehemently opposes. Rumfoord believes that war, like other extreme human activities, can "sort" humans into categories of strength and weakness. In other words, Rumfood believes that war is an accurate bellweather for who should survive and who shouldn't, because it forces people to come to terms with the power of their own wills.

But for Vonnegut, this justification is basically absurd. War, in Vonnegut's rendering, is not at all about one's fate, or about being rewarded for heroism and punished for cowardice. In his novel, war is a machine of chance, of fate, where humans actually play a relatively small part. Cowards are often rewarded - like Rumfoord himself. And heroes often fall in battle, without even being recognized as heroes. 

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Bertram C. Rumfoord Character Timeline in Slaughterhouse-Five

The timeline below shows where the character Bertram C. Rumfoord appears in Slaughterhouse-Five. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9
War and Death Theme Icon
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
Money and Success Theme Icon
Witness and Truth Theme Icon
...Billy is in a hospital room in Vermont with a Harvard professor named Bertram Copeland Rumfoord, who has broken a leg skiing. Rumfoord's fifth wife, Lily, who is twenty-three (Rumfoord is... (full context)
War and Death Theme Icon
Witness and Truth Theme Icon
Lily has brought Rumfoord a Xerox of President Truman’s speech to the Japanese shortly after the bombing of Hiroshima—this... (full context)
War and Death Theme Icon
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
Money and Success Theme Icon
Witness and Truth Theme Icon
...by awful gas. Billy briefly sees his son in Vermont and misses his wife’s funeral. Rumfoord tells Lily that he needs information about Dresden for his new one-volume history of the... (full context)
War and Death Theme Icon
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
Money and Success Theme Icon
Witness and Truth Theme Icon
Rumfoord believes Billy is merely repeating what Rumfoord had been saying earlier; he does not believe... (full context)
War and Death Theme Icon
Time, Time-travel, and Free Will Theme Icon
Science Fiction and Aliens Theme Icon
Money and Success Theme Icon
Witness and Truth Theme Icon
...crying He makes.” Billy is back in Vermont, telling the story of the horses to Rumfoord. Rumfoord argues that Dresden was militarily necessary. Billy said it was all right, that “everything... (full context)