The true purpose of human history is revealed at last to all the characters. They have all been used in one way or another, without full control of their own destinies. Much of the resolution in the story is found in this next-to-last chapter. It is revealed that Salo helped Rumfoord design the new religion of God the Utterly Indifferent, but it is unclear whether this was also just a part of the larger Tralfamadorian scheme.
This revelation casts earlier elements of the story in a new light. Noel Constant, by using the letters of the Gideon Bible to direct his investment patterns, was no doubt acting under the influence of Tralfamadore, implying that all the events that led up to the writing, translation, and publication of the Bible were also part of the scheme. The possibility is suggested that the unusual twelve-sided headquarters of his company was perhaps a message to Salo.
Resentful that he has been manipulated, Rumfoord tries to manipulate Salo in Rumfoord's final minutes on Titan. His bullying and reproaches do not work, however. Interestingly, Salo has become the most typically human of all the characters, possessing the ability to examine his own motives and emotions.
Epilogue: Reunion with Stony Summary
The story comes to an end with the narrator explaining, "There isn't much more to tell" (p. 302). Both Beatrice and Constant grow old and die within twenty-four hours of one another.
Constant lives in Salo's space ship for decades. He does not try to fix the grounded ship, but does note that Chrono's good luck piece fits perfectly in between two parts in a burned out compartment. To pass the time, Constant tinkers with Salo, trying to put him back together. His initial hope is that Salo will fly Chrono back to Earth. Neither Constant nor Beatrice wants to return to Earth, but they do wish their son to grow up with other people around.
At the age of seventy-four, Constant has not yet fixed Salo. Chrono is now forty-two, so the idea of flying him to Earth is no longer so important. At seventeen, Chrono had run away and gone to live with the Titanic bluebirds. Constant sometimes hears his calls, but never answers them and never sees him. He occasionally comes across the many shrines that Chrono makes from stones, feathers, and twigs. Constant respects his son's religion, and tidies up the shrines when he finds them.
Beatrice lives alone in the palace Rumfoord has built. She sometimes sees Chrono, who visits her for a day at a time on occasion before returning to the forest. These visits upset her. When she is upset, she flies a white sheet from the palace, which is a signal for Constant to come comfort her.
Constant sees the sheet flying. He loads a dugout canoe with fresh food and paddles out to the palace. Beatrice lives off the vast provisions in the palace, and Constant finds pleasure in bringing her fresh food. He also takes a broom and shovel to clean up. Beatrice does no cleaning at all.
Beatrice spends all her time writing a book called The True Purpose of Life in the Solar System. It is a refutation of what Rumfoord has told her about the sole purpose of life on Earth being to provide a spare part for Salo's ship. The manuscript is very lengthy. She reads aloud from it whenever Chrono visits.
She is reading to Constant as he drains the algae-choked pool that he cannot seem to keep clean. As the pool drains, the sirens are revealed at the bottom, covered in green goo. Constant has read Rumfoord's books and knows the significance of the sirens in his life, but they mean little to him now.
Constant converses briefly with Beatrice, who is tracking down a thought she wants to include in her manuscript. The thought she expresses is, "The worst thing that could possibly happen to anybody would be to not be used for anything by anybody" (p. 310). She thanks Constant for using her.
Constant shovels the garbage out of Beatrice's courtyard. He listens to the sound of the pool draining. He realizes he can no longer hear Beatrice breathing.
Constant buries Beatrice on the shore of the sea. The sky is filled with bluebirds. Chrono appears, dressed in a feathered cape. He calls thanks to his father and mother for giving him life and disappears. Constant returns to the palace to clean it up, imagining that some day someone will return to it. As he is cleaning he sees Salo coming across the water. Salo thanks him for putting him back together. He tells Constant he intends to continue on his journey to deliver his message.
Constant tells Salo that Beatrice has died, and Salo expresses his sorrow. He offers to take Constant back to Earth. Constant accepts. On the flight back, Salo begins to doubt the wisdom of returning Constant to Earth. Constant insists on being taken to Indianapolis, where he knows no one. Salo is worried that Constant knows nothing about the planet. He decides to help Constant by hypnotizing him. He tells him that when he is about to die, a "wonderful thing" will happen. He then describes this wonderful thing to Constant and wakens him.
The ship lands in the middle of night in the middle of winter outside Indianapolis. It is snowing. Constant gets out of the ship and Salo directs him to a bus stop bench where he says a bus will arrive shortly to take him downtown to a hotel. They say goodbye and Constant sits on the bench. The bus does not come for several hours because of the snow. Constant freezes to death.
As he dies, he sees the vision that Salo has implanted in his mind. He sees Stony Stevenson descending in a space ship from a break in the clouds. Stony has come to take him to paradise.
Epilogue: Reunion with Stony Analysis
The true fulfillment of Rumfoord's earlier prophecy to Beatrice occurs in the final epilogue. She lives like an aristocrat even though there is nobody to impress. She has found true love, albeit of a strange sort. She has transformed from the pure and fearful person she was at the beginning of the story to a fearless writer who keeps a sloppy household. Her philosophy that a life is only meaningful if a person is used by someone is interesting in light of the supposed meaning of human existence, which has been as a tool of a far off force. The implication is that even if what Rumfoord has told her is true, nonetheless humanity has had a valid purpose.
Constant finds a happiness of his own sort being self-sufficient and caring for Beatrice. At the beginning of the story, Constant's self-sufficiency was only as good as his money. He has now found a way to be self reliant without money.
A question arises at the end of the story, when Salo leaves Constant at the snowy bus stop in Indianapolis. Salo seems to have a thorough enough knowledge of Earth to be aware of the Indianapolis public transit system. It seems that he would also know that the buses would not be running on such a cold snowy morning. This suggests that Salo intentionally left Constant where he would probably die of exposure, although Salo knows he will die happy.
Malachi Constant is the main character throughout the novel, taking on at least four different identities over the course of the story.
Constant is the wealthiest man in the world, owing to the fantastic success of the company he has inherited from his father, called Magnum Opus. He is a playboy, partying his way through life in the wake of his seemingly incredible luck in making money. As his financial fortune crumbles, however, Constant finds that he has nowhere to turn.
This begins the second phase of his character, that of Unk, the disobedient Martian soldier who has had his memory cleared out several times but still manages to recall aspects of his former life. Unk is resourceful, insightful, and intelligent. It is interesting that these qualities do not seem to surface in the character until after he has had most of his memory removed.
Unk's resourcefulness serves him well in the caves of Mercury, where he is stranded for several years before determining how to get out. Once back on Earth, he takes on yet another identity, that of the Space Wanderer. This is an identity that has been created for him by Rumfoord to serve as a sort of messiah in his new religion. Still devoid of much of his memory, the Space Wanderer blithely accepts the adoration of the people of Earth, feeling that it is a wonderful place to be.
Rumfoord then fills in the gaps of Constant's memory and the Space Wanderer is once again Malachi Constant. He is a transformed Constant, however. No longer cavalier, he is humble. No longer the fearful soldier wishing simply to avoid pain, he loudly proclaims his independence. He spends his final days in serving Beatrice in her palace on Titan.
Winston Niles Rumfoord
A genial, wealthy aristocrat from Newport, Rhode Island. While flying his private spacecraft to Mars along with his dog, Kazak, Rumfoord passes through something called a "chrono-synclastic infandibulum" which scatters his existence across time and space. He materializes at different places in the solar system at different times at regular intervals. At the same time, he is constantly materialized on Titan, a moon of Saturn. He can read minds, and can see into both the future and the past.
Rumfoord uses his abilities to amass a fortune on Earth, and with the help of an extraterrestrial named Salo, who is also on Titan, he launches an elaborate scheme to bring a new religion to Earth that teaches that God has nothing to do with the fate of humankind.
Rumfoord manipulates the lives of Beatrice and Constant in service to his scheme. At the same time, however, he gives them the capability to transform themselves.
Rumfoord does not die, but leaves the solar system when the center of the spiral of his space-time existence shifts, sending him outward into the universe.
Beatrice Rumfoord is the attractive wife of Winston Niles Rumfoord. She lives in the large Rumfoord estate, where she tolerates the regular materializations of her husband. She is a poet.
Her fate parallels Constant's. She is taken to Mars and has her memory erased, taking on the identity of Bee, a meek and obedient teacher. She and her son crash land in the Amazon rain forest during the Martian invasion of Earth and have to survive in the wilderness. They are eventually rescued and taken back to Newport, where she becomes a seller of souvenirs outside the Rumfoord estate where she once lived, although she has no recollection of it. The estate has now become the center of Rumfoord's new religion.
Her years in the jungle have given Bee cunning survival skills and made her fearless. Her time in the jungle has also turned her skin brown from eating a certain root for food. This accentuates the transformation of Beatrice, whose girlhood portrait that hangs in the Rumfoord estate shows her dressed all in white next to a white pony.
Like Constant, Bee has her past revealed to her during the religious spectacle led by Rumfoord at the estate, just before she is exiled to Titan. No longer fearful of Rumfoord as she was when she was his wife, she tells him off, calling him "scummy". She lives out her days on Titan, living in Rumfoord's former palace and writing. Having forgotten about her former self-image as a pure white virgin, she absently throws her garbage on the floor to be cleaned up by Constant.
Chrono is the son of Beatrice and Constant. He is eight years old when Constant first sees him, or when he first remembers seeing him, on Mars. He is an excellent ball player, striking fear into his opponents. He has jet black hair and is fiercely independent.
Chrono, along with his mother, learns dangerous survival skills along in the jungle of Brazil. Once back in civilization, he becomes a juvenile delinquent, kept out of jail only because of the intervention of Rumfoord.
While a child on Mars, Chrono picks up a small piece of metal that he keeps with him at all times as a good luck piece. This piece turns out to be the replacement part for the stranded space craft of Salo on Titan. Chrono carries the part with him when he accompanies his mother and Constant to Titan.
Chrono lives the rest of his life on Titan among the large eagle-like bluebirds that inhabit the forests.
Ransom K. Fern
Ransom K. Fern is the president of Magnum Opus, the company founded by Noel Constant and handed down to Malachi Constant. He is a very thin man with a biting, dry sense of humor.
A messenger from the planet Tralfamadore, Salo is stranded on Titan when his spacecraft malfunctions because of a broken part. Salo is a machine, but has emotions that seem to run deeper than most of the human characters in the novel. He comes to love Rumfoord as a friend after helping him build up his Martian army and invent his new religion. Salo is despondent when Rumfoord disappears, and commits suicide by taking himself apart.
Salo is waiting for a replacement part to be delivered. He watches the activities on Earth as the entire history of civilization advances to the point where the simple part can be manufactured and delivered to him. After his self-dismantling, Constant manages to put Salo back together again and helps him repair his ship. Salo returns Constant to Earth in the ship.
Boaz is one of the "real" commanders of the Martian army. Although only a private, Boaz does not have a controlling antenna in his head and possesses a control box that can direct the actions of the other soldiers in his platoon.
Boaz is stranded on Mercury with Constant, where he comes to love the simple creatures called harmoniums, finding a purpose in his life by caring for them. When Constant figures out how to get out of the caves of Mercury, Boaz decides to stay behind to care for the creatures.
Stony Stevenson is Constant's best friend on Mars, and is one of the "real" commanders. He helps Constant try to remember what he can about his past, encouraging him to write it down so he can recall it whenever his memory is erased. Stony is found out by the other commanders and is sentenced to death for helping Constant. It is Constant himself who strangles Stony at the execution, unaware of what he is doing or who Stony is at the time.
Noel Constant is the father of Malachi Constant. Using a bizarre method of choosing stocks based on the letters in the Bible, Noel Constant builds an enormous fortune, which, with the help of Ransom K. Fern, is turned into a powerful corporation. Noel only sees his son Malachi once during his life.
Constant's platoon leader on Mars. He is actually controlled by Boaz. Brackman is one of the few survivors of the ill-fated Martian invasion. He becomes a souvenir seller like Bee.
The butler at the Rumfoord estate, and Rumfoord's right-hand man on Earth. Moncrief helps Rumfoord build the first spacecraft to take recruits from Earth to Mars.
Reverend C. Horner Redwine
The pastor of the Barnstable Church of God the Utterly Indifferent who first welcomes Constant in his role as the Space Wanderer.
The Rumfoord Estate
The large house and grounds where Beatrice Rumfoord lives and where Winston Rumfoord rematerializes every fifty-nine days. The grounds feature a tall fountain made up of several bowls, each smaller than the one below it. It is the scene of Rumfoord's grand religious spectacle when Constant and Beatrice are exiled to Titan.
The home of Malachi Constant, the wealthiest man on the planet. Constant lives in a mansion where he throws wild parties.
The only city on the planet Mars, founded by Rumfoord to drive his Martian invasion of Earth.
Caves of Mercury
Deep caves on the dark side of Mercury where Constant and Boaz are transported instead of to Earth to fight in the war, and where Boaz decides to remain. Rumfoord visits the caves of Mercury every fourteen days.
One of the moons of Saturn. Titan is inhabitable by humans and is covered by forest, meadows, rivers, lakes, and seas. Rumfoord is permanently materialized on Titan. It is where Salo, the creature from Tralfamadore, is stranded, and where Beatrice, Constant, and Chrono spend their final days.
A distant planet 150,000 light years from the Solar System where Salo comes from. The machine creatures of Tralfamadore can influence events at great distances from their planet. They use their influence to drive human civilization toward creating a spare part for Salo's spacecraft.
A small doll that is hung in effigy, representing Malachi Constant, the primary negative symbol of Rumfoord's Church of God the Utterly Indifferent.
A giant spacecraft designed for interplanetary travel. It is later rechristened The Rumfoord.
Giant, eagle-like birds that inhabit the forests of Titan. The Titanic bluebirds take in Chrono on Titan, allowing to live among them.
Chrono's good luck piece
A small piece of metal strapping with two holes in it. It is the culmination of all human civilization. It is also a replacement part for Salo's space ship.
The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent
The organized faith formed by Rumfoord in the wake of the Martian invasion based on the idea that God has nothing to do with luck.