Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Billy Pilgrim, a conservative, middle-aged optometrist living in upstate Ilium, New York. Born in 1922, Pilgrim leads a very bland life, except for the facts that at the end of World War II he came “unstuck in time” and began to jump back and forth among past, present, and future, and that in 1967 he was captured by a flying saucer from the planet Tralfamadore. The novel’s jerky structure mirrors his interplanetary and time travel. Pilgrim is thus a schizophrenic character: An apathetic, almost autistic widower in the present, he is also a crackpot visionary who claims to have visited another planet and to speak as a prophet. The cause of Pilgrim’s schizoid behavior, as the author makes clear, is the horror he witnessed in Dresden as a prisoner of war when that beautiful old German city was systematically incinerated by American bombers.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., the author of the novel and a character in it, living on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The first and last chapters of the novel form a frame around the narrative proper. In them, Vonnegut describes his trip with his wartime buddy, Bernard V. O’Hare, back to Dresden, Germany, where they were imprisoned during World War II, as well as current events (for example, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy). The persona of this narrator is naïve, idealistic, and fixated on World War II, especially on the...
(The entire section is 519 words.)
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