The novel’s protagonist, Billy Pilgrim is an optometrist and former chaplain’s assistant in the US Army who has “come unstuck in time,” meaning he can travel between moments in his life. Billy was captured by… read analysis of Billy Pilgrim
The author of the novel, Kurt Vonnegut was also taken as a POW during the Battle of the Bulge and survived the firebombing of Dresden in Slaughterhouse-Five. In the opening and closing chapters of… read analysis of Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut’s friend from World War II, who also hid in the slaughterhouse during the bombing, O’Hare finds it difficult to recall memories of Dresden. He travels back to Germany with Vonnegut in the late 1960s… read analysis of Bernard O’Hare
An antisocial, bullying young soldier from Pittsburgh, Roland Weary survives a German attack on his unit and stumbles on two scouts, with whom he imagines he has teamed to form “The Three Musketeers.” Weary also… read analysis of Roland Weary
Small aliens with one hand and an eye in the palm, the Tralfamadorians, from the planet Tralfamadore, abduct Billy after the war and hold him captive many millions of miles from earth. They keep Billy… read analysis of Tralfamadorians
A middle-aged English teacher from Indianapolis, Edgar Derby is a passionate, upright, and courageous soldier who cares for Billy when he falls ill in the German POW camp. Derby later defends American ideals to Howard… read analysis of Edgar Derby
An obscure science fiction writer, Kilgore Trout writes novels full of good ideas and bad writing, and is in some sense a caricature of Kurt Vonnegut, whose early writings were exercises in science fiction… read analysis of Kilgore Trout
Bertram C. Rumfoord
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… read analysis of Bertram C. Rumfoord
A colonel in the Army who is taken prisoner and placed in a railcar, Wild Bob has double pneumonia and eventually dies of his illness. He tells all to ask for him in Cody, Wyoming… read analysis of Wild Bob
A criminal from Illinois, Paul Lazzaro holds Weary as he dies and vows to take revenge on Billy, Weary’s supposed “killer.” Lazzaro does in fact have Billy killed in the 1970s, long after the war is over.
Billy’s wife and the heiress to a small optometry fortune, Valencia loves Billy deeply. In her panic after hearing of Billy’s plane crash, Valencia is involved in a minor car accident that eventually causes her death from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Barbara and Robert Pilgrim
Billy’s daughter and son. Barbara takes care of Billy after his plane crash and believes he is senile when he begins talking of his Tralfamadorian abduction. Robert, a troubled youth in high school, becomes a successful member of the Green Berets fighting in Vietnam.
Lying in a hospital bed next to Billy during his mental breakdown after the war, Eliot Rosewater introduces Billy to Kilgore Trout’s science fiction and speaks kindly to Billy’s mother when Billy refuses to listen.
A very young German solider, Werner Gluck leads Billy and Derby to the slaughterhouse kitchen and where they accidentally happen upon a group of young women showering. This is the first time he has seen a naked woman.
Howard W. Campbell, Jr.
An American turncoat who has become a propagandist for the Nazi war cause, Howard W. Campbell, Jr., writes books on the rudeness of American GIs and tries to convince the POWs to fight with the Germans against Russia. Derby argues with Campbell and defends America’s ideals.
Bernard’s wife, Mary urges Vonnegut to show in his novel that war is fought by very young men—children. Vonnegut agrees and promises to subtitle the novel “The Children’s Crusade.”
Rumfoord’s 23-year-old fifth wife, Lily brings her husband books in the hospital and pretends to read from President Truman’s announcement of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, though she is a poor reader.
Also a POW corralled into a railcar, the hobo claims that his treatment at the hands of the Germans is “not so bad.” The hobo later dies and his boots are stolen.
An American film star, Montana is abducted by the Tralfamadorians as a companion to Billy. They have a child together in the Tralfamadorian zoo where they are kept.
POWs captured at the beginning of the war, the Englishmen create a small fantasy-land within their prison camp, putting on performances, stockpiling excess food, and generally ignoring the horrors of the war raging outside.
A young woman whom Kilgore Trout talks to at Billy Pilgrim's 18th wedding anniversary party. When Trout tells Maggie that God knows all the good and bad things she thinks and says, and will use that information on Judgment Day, she gets scared and leaves the party.