Billy Pilgrim The central character of Slaughterhouse-Five. A pacifist, a soldier, a prisoner of war, and an optometrist (someone who prescribes corrective lenses for people who have visual defects), Billy is the epitome of a mild-mannered Everyman who adapts to life's situations rather than challenge them. He feels it is better to turn the other cheek than to suffer the guilt of being offensive — the only "aggressive" action Billy takes during the novel is his committing himself into a mental ward. He becomes "unstuck in time" and travels to other times and places.
Bernard V. O'Hare A former soldier and the narrator's comrade from the Nazis' POW camps in the 1940s. Some 20 years after the war has ended, O'Hare accompanies the narrator on a visit back to Dresden.
Gerhard Muller A taxi driver in post-World War II Dresden, he befriends the narrator and Bernard V. O'Hare when they return to that city in 1967.
Mary O'Hare The wife of Bernard V. O'Hare, she rebukes the narrator concerning the novel he intends to write, contending that he will make war attractive by imposing heroic, adult maturity on the immature boy-soldier participants.
Roland Weary A bully and a braggart, he is a foil to Billy Pilgrim, illustrating the contrast between his aggressive degeneracy and Billy's pacifism.
The Scouts Two unnamed American soldiers, their job is to slip behind enemy lines and gather essential information about the enemy.
Edgar Derby A fellow POW at the Dresden camp. Elected leader by the other American prisoners, he is executed one month after the Dresden bombing for stealing a teapot.
Paul Lazzaro A former car thief from Cicero, Illinois, he promises a dying Roland Weary that he will have Billy Pilgrim killed. Lazzaro's promise is carried out in 1976.
Mr. Pilgrim Billy's smug, self-righteous, and patriarchal father; when Billy is a child, his father throws him into the deep end of a pool to teach him how to swim and to shock him into assertive behavior. Mr. Pilgrim is accidentally shot and killed in a hunting accident while Billy is on military maneuvers in South Carolina.
Mrs. Pilgrim Billy's mother, a self-sacrificing martyr but spiritually empty; eventually, Billy places her in a nursing home.
Valencia Merble Pilgrim Billy's wife and Lionel Merble's daughter, she is a puppet in her father's business dealings and Billy's material success; Valencia dies from carbon-monoxide poisoning after an automobile accident.
Lionel Merble Billy's father-in-law and a member of the John Birch Society; he owns the Ilium School of Optometry, from which Billy graduates.
Barbara Pilgrim The daughter of Billy and Valencia and the personification of middle-class hypocrisy and indifference. She has little concern for her father's condition, but she worries greatly about what people will think-how it will reflect on her.
Robert Pilgrim The son of Billy and Valencia, he becomes a Green Beret and fights in the Vietnam War.
Eliot Rosewater Billy's roommate in the veterans' hospital, Eliot is an example of someone who is trying to reinvent himself in order to atone for his wartime atrocities. He introduces Billy to Kilgore Trout's novels.
Kilgore Trout A science-fiction writer of many novels and an inspiration to Billy, he works as a circulation manager for the Ilium Gazette. Absurdly, his books are used as window dressing in a New York City pornography shop.
Harrison Starr A moviemaker and a critic of the state of the novel in the modern world; he contends that wars happen regardless of what anyone does to prevent them.
Bertram Copeland Rumfoord A retired brigadier general and the official historian of the U.S. Air Force, he shares a room with Billy in a Vermont hospital after Billy's plane crash.
Lily Rumfoord The wife of Bertram Copeland Rumfoord.
Lance Rumfoord A nephew of Bertram Copeland Rumfoord, he is a passenger honeymooning on a yacht that sails by Billy and Valencia's apartment on their wedding night.
Howard W. Campbell, Jr. An American turned traitor, he writes propaganda for the Nazis. He functions as a characterization of supremacist chauvinism carried to extreme absurdity.
The English Colonel The leader of the English officers at the POW camp where Billy is initially taken after being captured.
Werner Gluck A tall, weak, 16-year-old German guard at the Dresden POW camp.
The Maori An aborigine from New Zealand; also a POW, he is teamed with Billy to remove corpses from Dresden's rubble.
The Narrator/Kurt Vonnegut A part-time character strongly represented in SlaughterhouseFive. As the narrator, Vonnegut frames his novel with beginning and ending chapters that sketch his own biography, relate how he goes about writing the narrative, and describe how the narrative took on a new form in the process.
Maggie White A voluptuous dimwit, she is the wife of an optometrist at Billy's wedding anniversary party.
Wild Bob An American infantry colonel who loses his entire regiment in battle.
Montana Wildhack A movie star and sex symbol featured in pornographic magazines, she is Billy's mate in the Tralfamadore zoo.
Marine Corps Major The speaker at a Lions Club luncheon who tells Billy that he should be proud of his son, Robert, fighting in Vietnam.