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Bluebeard | Characters

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Character Description
Rabo Karabekian Rabo Karabekian is a son of Armenian immigrants who studies art with Dan Gregory, loses an eye serving in World War II, is a father and husband, and becomes a notable abstract expressionist artist and collector. The novel takes the form of his autobiography and diary. Read More
Circe Berman Circe Berman is a recently widowed best-selling writer who stays at Rabo's home during the summer of 1987 and transforms his life. Read More
Dan Gregory Dan Gregory is America's most famous and wealthy illustrator, who takes teenage Rabo as his apprentice. Read More
Terry Kitchen Terry Kitchen is a fictional abstract expressionist painter and Rabo's friend. Read More
Marilee Kemp Marilee Kemp is Dan Gregory's mistress who develops a friendship with Rabo when he expresses interest in becoming Gregory's apprentice. Marilee later becomes the Countess Portomaggiore, a powerful businesswoman and art collector. Read More
Nelson Bauerbeck Nelson Bauerbeck is a teacher at the Art Students League who refuses to take Rabo as a student because his work lacks passion.
Beskudnikov Beskudnikov is a Russian artist responsible for engraving plates to make currency. He is Dan Gregory's harsh teacher.
Beskudnikov's servants Beskudnikov's servants have no affection for Dan Gregory but use his services as a translator so they can understand the orders Beskudnikov gives in unfamiliar foreign languages.
Beskudnikov's wife Beskudnikov's wife rescues Dan Gregory from his young, alcoholic parents to make him a part, albeit unloved, of her household.
Bluebeard Bluebeard is the name of the lead character in the folktale that inspires the title of Vonnegut's novel. He kills his wives in succession, storing their bodies in a room that he then forbids the next wife to open.
Jim Brooks Jim Brooks is an artist who tells Rabo that, after he paints the first strokes, the canvas does most of the work.
Truman Capote Truman Capote is a 20th-century American writer whose famous line about the difference between writing (real art) and typing (soulless production) is quoted by Paul Slazinger.
Celeste Celeste is the 15-year-old daughter of Rabo's cook, Allison White.
Cézanne During the war, Rabo buys a sketch from real-life French artist Paul Cézanne, known for his Postimpressionist paintings.
Arnold Coates Arnold Coates is the editor at the newspaper where Rabo gets his first job drawing political cartoons. He warns Rabo that Europe is bloodthirsty and wants war.
Franklin Cooley Franklin Cooley mows the lawns of Rabo's estate. He has six children and drives a car whose brown color Rabo hates.
Marc Coulomb Marc Coulomb is the 25-year-old son of an influential Armenian family who persuades an advertising agency to give Rabo a job as an illustrator.
Woman curator After a painting of Rabo's disintegrates, revealing a portrait he did of Paul Slazinger underneath, a woman curator recognizes Slazinger as someone she used to date.
Charles Warren Fairbanks Charles Warren Fairbanks, an Indiana senator and vice president to Theodore Roosevelt, is one of Richard Fairbanks Jr.'s ancestors.
Richard Fairbanks Jr. Richard Fairbanks Jr. is Edith's first husband. He is a banker and sportsman, originally from Cincinnati.
W.C. Fields W.C. Fields is a real-life comedian. In the novel, he has dinner at Gregory's home before disagreeing with his host's support of Benito Mussolini.
Isadore Finkelstein Isadore Finkelstein is a tailor who makes suits for Rabo and his artist friends. He is also a painter and war veteran.
Dan Gregory's father Dan Gregory's father is still a teenager when his son is born. He and Gregory's mother are unequipped to care for the boy, and he allows him to be adopted by Beskudnikov's wife.
Football team The football team at Marilee's high school rapes her on prom night.
Gerald Hildreth Gerald Hildreth is a taxi driver who drives Circe. He discovers the bodies of Jackson Pollock and Terry Kitchen during his time on the Rescue Squad.
Kevork Hovanessian Kevork Hovanessian is a man of Armenian descent who owns a property in the Hamptons that used to belong to the wealthy J.P. Morgan. He also at one time owned 20th Century Fox.
Big John Big John, also known as John Karpinksi, is a farmer and neighbor of Rabo's, and his family sold the potato barn to Edith's first husband. His son, Little John, dies in Vietnam.
Little John Little John is Big John's son. He is killed in the Vietnam War.
Al Jolson Al Jolson is a real-life singer, actor, and comedian. In the novel, he is a friend of Dan Gregory until the two disagree about Gregory's support of Benito Mussolini.
Fred Jones Fred Jones is Dan Gregory's assistant. He loses an eye while serving as a pilot during World War I. He later dies alongside Gregory in Italy.
Dorothy Dorothy Karabekian is Rabo's first wife who meets Rabo when she is a nurse and he is hospitalized for his war injury. She leaves Rabo, taking their two sons, and later marries Roy Steele.
Edith Edith Taft Karabekian is Rabo's second wife, a Long Island blue blood with a mansion in the Hamptons that she leaves to him after her death. Although she has been raised with money and connections, Edith is a kind, humble person and is happily married to Rabo for 20 years.
Henri Karabekian Henri Karabekian is Rabo's son by his first wife, Dorothy, and is named after Henri Matisse, the artist Rabo most admires. He grows up to change his last name to Steele and work at the Pentagon.
Terry Karabekian Terry Karabekian is Rabo's son by his first wife, Dorothy, and is named after Rabo's friend, Terry Kitchen. He grows up to change his last name to Steele and work as a publicity manager for a football team.
F. Donald Kasabian F. Donald Kasabian is a man of Armenian heritage who is Rabo's neighbor in the Hamptons. He is the executive vice president of Metropolitan Life.
Kim Bum Suk Kim Bum Suk is a political exile from South Korea who is working on his doctoral thesis about the history of architecture at MIT. He photographs Marilee's Italian home extensively.
Kitchen's father Terry Kitchen's father visits his son to urge him to get treatment for alcoholism, only to be shot by Terry.
Lucrezia Lucrezia is an Italian woman who works in Marilee's Italian home. She loses both a leg and an eye during World War II when she steps on a land mine.
New maître d' at the Century Club The new maître d' at the Century Club tells Rabo that the previous maître d', Roberto, was killed accidentally by a bicycle messenger.
Man at the Century Club A man at the Century Club who talks with Rabo, he is a writer who is married to a sexologist.
Man from the War Department A man from the War Department of the United States, disguised as a worker, he approaches Marilee and urges her to marry Bruno Portomaggiore if she loves her country.
Unnamed man An unnamed man who claims to have known Rabo during the war is responsible for a letter to the editor in a newspaper in which the man claims Rabo stole artwork during the war and is hiding it in the potato barn.
Leo Mamigonian Leo Mamigonian is the son of Vartan Mamigonian. He buys Marilee's Italian palazzo after her death from the male heir to her late husband Bruno Portomaggiore's estate.
Vartan Mamigonian Vartan Mamigonian is an Armenian who tricks Rabo's parents out of their jewels with false promises of a home and job in San Ignacio, California.
Maria Maria is a woman who works for Marilee in her home in Italy, opening the door when Rabo visits. She lost an eye in the war.
Marilee's father Marilee Kemp's father is an abusive man who hits his daughter daily.
Henri Matisse Henri Matisse is a real-life painter. Rabo's favorite artist, he is the man after whom Rabo names one of his sons.
Barbira Mencken Barbira Mencken is an actress and the ex-wife of Paul Slazinger, who knew her as Barbara. Rabo thinks he sees her when he revisits Dan Gregory's former home in present-day New York City.
Mortician The mortician who prepares Rabo's father for burial is under the false impression that he is Islamic.
Benito Mussolini Benito Mussolini is the fascist leader of Italy of whom Dan Gregory is a follower. He orders Bruno Portomaggiore to marry Marilee to eliminate rumors about Bruno's sexuality.
Jackson Pollock Jackson Pollock is a real-life abstract expressionist artist famed for his painting style of dripping and splashing paint in layers. In the novel, he, Rabo, and Kitchen form a fictional group known as the Three Musketeers. He later commits suicide (as the real Pollock also did).
Floyd Pomerantz Floyd Pomerantz gives Rabo a ride home from New York in his Cadillac stretch limousine and wants to be a painter.
Psychiatrist who dates Circe A psychiatrist meets Circe on the beach and takes her on a date.
Count Bruno Portomaggiore Count Bruno Portomaggiore is the minister of culture for Benito Mussolini but is also the head of British intelligence in Italy. Although he is homosexual, he marries Marilee on Mussolini's orders.
Rabo's father Rabo's father is an Armenian teacher who survives genocide in his homeland. After being tricked into coming to San Ignacio, California, he becomes a cobbler and remains permanently embittered.
Rabo's mother Rabo's mother, who dies when he is 12, is an Armenian who survives genocide in her home country. After she comes to the United States, she encourages her son's artistic talents by insisting he contact Dan Gregory.
Mark Rothko Mark Rothko is a real-life famous abstract expressionist artist who committed suicide.
George Santayana George Santayana is a Harvard philosopher whose famous comment about history repeating itself is quoted by Slazinger.
William Saroyan William Saroyan, who is of Armenian heritage, is a famous writer.
Paul Slazinger Paul Slazinger is a writer and wounded veteran who suffers from mental instability. He spends most of his time at Rabo's house, and the two wounded veterans are each other's only friends.
Stage manager at Ziegfeld Follies The stage manager at Ziegfeld Follies is Marilee's boss who threatens her in order to force her into prostitution.
Syd Solomon Syd Solomon is a painter who explains that accurate judgment of art comes from seeing many, many paintings.
Roy Steele Roy Steele is Dorothy's second husband and stepfather to Rabo's two sons.
William Howard Taft William Howard Taft is the real-life 27th president of the United States. In the novel, Rabo's second wife, Edith, is Taft's grandniece.
Booth Tarkington Booth Tarkington is a real-life American author. In the novel, Dan Gregory illustrates Tarkington's work and invites him to a dinner party with Al Jolson and W.C. Fields.
Tobacconist In Russia, the tobacconist sells Dan Gregory cigars for a real ruble note that Beskudnikov believes is Gregory's forgery.
Mona Lisa Trippingham Mona Lisa Trippingham is an insurance inspector who discovers the decrepit canvases that used to be Rabo's Windsor Blue Number Seventeen and offers to return them to him.
Allison White Allison White is Rabo's cook and Celeste's mother. She accuses Rabo, correctly, of not knowing her name.
Woman with steel clamps for hands A woman with steel clamps for hands works for Marilee. She loses her hands when her husband makes her place them in boiling water to force her to reveal the names of her lovers.
Dead old woman with jewels in her mouth When she played dead to escape the massacre of the Armenians, Rabo's mother lay beside the dead old woman with jewels in her mouth. The woman is also a figure in Rabo's final painting, Now It's the Women's Turn.
Sam Wu Sam Wu is a Chinese laundryman who becomes Dan Gregory's cook. He writes to Rabo during the war and stores the paintings Rabo sends him from Europe until his return.
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