This is what makes Eliot Rosewater the unlikely hero, he is a fool and a criminal in the minds of his father and his colleagues yet he stands as a god amongst his community, the people he cares about more than life itself. Eliot Rosewater stands out to the reader and the characters within the novel due to his lack of the one trait we all share, greed. The actions of Eliot show that he is a man that has struggled to do more than is expected of him, feeling guilt; he is a character that is struggling to make things right in a world he does not understand.
Eliot Rosewater inherits the Rosewater fortune after his father sees him fit to do so, leaving Eliot in charge while his father remains senator of Rosewater, Indiana. Rosewater begins as a man that’s apparently very intelligent but feels lost in the world that surrounds him. He sees no purpose for himself, as of this time he was not head of the Rosewater Foundation. Eliot attends schools such as Harvard during his young adult life. After graduating from Harvard, Eliot deems himself unfit to continue through the motions of society and instead enlists himself into the military.
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After returning home from the war he marries a woman named Sylvia and tries to begin a new life. However, he is plagued by his responsibility for the death of a child during the war. Rosewater begins to drink while trying to maintain a life with his new love and be the head of the Rosewater Foundation. Eventually Eliot is an alcoholic and his marriage is in pieces, the only thing thriving being his foundation. Sylvia becomes obsessed with the wealth, feeling indifferent to the struggles of those less fortunate, breaks down and is told by her doctor to divorce Eliot and leave the county.
Eliot becomes a volunteer fireman and a philanthropist, struggling to help the community due to the fact that his life is in shambles. Eliot realizes that his greatest purpose in this world is to take care of his family, the community of Rosewater, Indiana. Eliot takes care of his community through actions such as donations and help money. Sleeping by a telephone, Eliot is awakened each night with a phone call from someone in distress, asking them how much it would take to keep them alive for one more week. Eliot begins to act simply for his community, often times ignoring his own needs such as hunger and thirst.
Eliot’s later actions show how he has changed as a person throughout the book, beginning life lost, he maneuvered through life without meaning or purpose. Eliot enlists in the army, showing that he feels that there is something better that he could do with his life. Eliot then lives the rest of his life in regret, hating himself for what he did to that child during the war, disconnecting himself from Sylvia and his father, hating that he can have so much money with the awful thing he did while so many of the good innocent hard working people of his community have nothing.
By Eliot giving money to the members of his community we can tell that he is truly sorry for what he has done and is seeking forgiveness for his actions, perhaps trying to pay a debt to God or even to that child. This changes him from an innocent man with no purpose in life, to a guilty man who has a debt to repay, therefore pushing his life in a direction, toward helping his community. His feelings and actions can be seen on page 193: “Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded.
At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies — "God damn it, you've got to be kind. " The significance of Eliot Rosewater is more than just a character, if you can call him that. Eliot Rosewater stands as a symbol, a purpose and an idea set in motion, a breathing thought. As Kurt Vonnegut says: “A sum of money is a leading character in this tale about people, just as a sum of honey might properly be a leading character in a tale about bees. “ Money stands as a leading character in the novel; Eliot simply stands as the hands that hold it.
Mr. Rosewater can’t really be put into the categories of “flat” or “static” because he simply does not act like a character within a novel should act. Eliot never shows his guilt or feelings to anyone, and instead the reader must find out about it through the narrator, Kurt Vonnegut. To the reader Eliot seems completely sane and almost appears as the hero of the tale, where as his relationship to the other characters tells a different story. Eliot stands as a radical, a man with no purpose or understanding of the cast system.
Eliot Rosewater begins with a clean slate, going nowhere in his life. He ends with a few chips on his shoulder, yet with a purpose in his life more important than any of the other characters. Rosewater gives his fortune away to his community, claiming them as his children. Eliot’s characteristics stand him apart from every other character, being the only selfless character within the entire novel. His suffering leads him to completely happiness at the climax of the novel, leaving his friends and family in with misunderstanding stares.
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