Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

by

Kurt Vonnegut

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Breakfast of Champions: Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At the Holiday Inn, Dwayne sleeps late and goes down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. He sits alone in the empty dining room, except for Cyprian Ukwende, who sit a few feet away. Dwayne knows where he is now. He looks out on Midland City. The land is “treeless” and “flat,” but he assumes that most places are. He touches the lapel of his jacket and feels a button fastened there. He looks at it. “Support the Arts,” it reads. He has seen others in town wearing similar buttons and he knows they are to promote the arts center.
Midland City is “treeless” and “flat” because capitalism and manufacturing processes have stripped the land for profits, which negatively effects local ecosystems and the environment. Dwayne’s assumption that all places are likewise stripped reflects the widespread practice in American society of making profits at the expense of the environment.
Themes
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
Dwayne thinks about Sugar Creek, a small river that flows through Midland City that floods every “now and then.” Midland City is “so flat” that flooding is rare, but occasionally the creek “brims over silently” and “forms a vast mirror in which children might safely play.” Dwayne silently whispers, “Sugar Creek” and finishes his breakfast.
When Kilgore’s theory of mirrors as portals to another universe is employed here, the mirror on the surface of Sugar Creek becomes a door to a universe where creeks and rivers aren’t dump sites for industrial waste and pollution.
Themes
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
Dwayne “dares to suppose that he is no longer mentally diseased” and walks out into the parking lot. He can see his dealership across the street, but the asphalt has become “a sort of trampoline.” Dwayne steps onto the trampoline asphalt and begins making sinking steps in the direction of his dealership. He looks around to see if anyone is watching and finds Cyprian Ukwende standing on the sidewalk. “Nice day,” Ukwende says.
Dwayne is implied to be having a mental break, yet even Cyprian Ukwende, a doctor, pretends not to notice and doesn’t say a thing or offer to help. Dr. Ukwende is the very person society has charged with their well-being, and even he avoids the awkward subject of mental illness.
Themes
Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
As Dwayne moves towards the dealership “from dimple to dimple,” he sees a young black man polishing cars in the parking lot. He smiles “blindingly” at Dwayne and continues to polish. The man has just been released from prison in Shepherdstown and is “free at last!” He has spent most of his life in orphanages, juvenile homes, and prisons, but he is out now and looking for work. Dwayne thinks the man is a hallucination.
The young black man’s life has been bleak thus far, which reflects how limited the opportunities are for black people in America, as well as the problems that stem from uneven wealth distribution. The young black man has been trapped all his life in a cycle of poverty that is impossible to climb out of, no matter how many cars he polishes.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Get the entire Breakfast of Champions LitChart as a printable PDF.
For the young black man, “life is not worth living.” His desire to live is “feeble,” and he thinks the “planet is terrible.” Most of his life has been spent in cages, but he dreams of a “better world.” Whenever he closes his eyes, he can see the name of this “better world” written inside his head. It says, “FAIRY LAND.”
Again, the young black man’s desire for a “better world” reflects the systemic and institutionalized racism present in American society. Oppression and discrimination are so prominent that he can only escape them his dreams.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Related Quotes
“Good morning,” the young black man says to Dwayne. He tells Dwayne he has seen many of his ads and that he would love to work for him. “Oh?” says Dwayne. “Our names are so close,” the man says to him, “it’s the good Lord telling us both what to do.” Dwayne doesn’t ask his name. “My name, sir,” the man offers, “is Wayne Hoobler.” As Dwayne walks away, Vonnegut interrupts. “Hoobler,” Vonnegut says, “is a common Nigger name” in Midland City.  
Here, Vonnegut again holds up a mirror to force readers to face the ugliness of racism. There is very little difference between Dwayne and Wayne outside of the way society views them, yet their lives couldn’t be more different. Dwayne prides himself on racial tolerance, but he doesn’t even bother ask Wayne his name when offered. Like many Americans, Dwayne actively denies racism but acts in a way that perpetuates it.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Dwayne walks into his dealership and “the ground isn’t blooping underneath him anymore.” Now, however, he is confronted with the confusing sight of palm trees and coconuts. Dwayne has forgotten all about “Hawaiian Week,” which is puzzling enough, but then Harry LeSabre walks by wearing a “lettuce-green leotard, straw sandals, a grass skirt, and a pink T-shirt” that says: “MAKE LOVE NOT WAR.” Dwayne looks at Harry, astonished. “Aloha,” Harry says. 
Dwayne’s confusion is a product of his deteriorating mental health and is another obvious cry for help that goes unnoticed. Furthermore, Harry’s use of the word “Aloha” also highlights the postmodern understanding of the arbitrary nature of language.  “Aloha,” which means both hello and goodbye, implies that words are random and not rooted in absolute meaning.
Themes
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Mental Health Theme Icon