Rudy Waltz (aka “Deadeye Dick”) is the lead in this latter day Vonnegut novel. Waltz, our protagonist, moves through the book trying to make sense of a life that is rife with disaster; there is a double murder, a fatal dose of radioactivity, a decapitation, the total annihilation of a city by nuclear holocaust and, believe it or not, more. Waltz, a diarist, becomes symbolic of a person living a fraught post-technological life in which frailty is as likely to be a person’s undoing as any bomb.
Waltz finally reaches the point of resignation; a realization and understanding that there are things that are just beyond our control and understanding that make all human motive, ambition, and circumstance absolutely irrelevant. Waltz’s search for meaning leads him ultimately to a kind of resignation which ought not be confused with understanding of any kind, for it is not. It is simple resignation.
It is this theme of Vonnegut’s--the impossibility of trying to live meaningfully in a meaningless world--that is ultimately central to this novel. Rudy Waltz (like some of Vonnegut’s other protagonists, Billy Pilgrim or Howard Campbell) is ultimately only a stand-in for Vonnegut himself who is really narrating for us as the lead witness and character here--the philosopher who is telling us why and what for.