In Chapter 5 of Slaughterhouse Five, who is Edgar Derby?
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Edgar Derby is another American prisoner of war who is with Billy Pilgrim in the prison camp and who befriends Billy during their time together. From his very first introduction, the narrator draws the reader's attention to Derby's eventual fate, and this is something that is repeated every time Derby as a character appears in this chapter. Note how he is introduced the first time the reader is introduced to him:
Next to Lazzaro was poor, doomed old Edgar Derby, with his American and German dogs displayed like a necklace, on the outside of his clothes. He had expected to become a captain, a company commander, because of his wisdom and age. Now here he was on the Czechoslovakian border at midnight.
His imminent fate of being shot to death whilst at Dresden is something that is referred to repeatedly, and Vonnegut does this to allow the reader to see his character from a Tralfamadorean viewpoint. Just as Tralfamadoreans see past, present and future coexisting simultaneously, whilst the reader sees Edgar Derby in his life, Vonnegut constantly reminds the reader of his death. The fragile mortality of humans is highlighted and the absence of any free will or control over one's destiny is foregrounded once again through this character.
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