After his unexpected encounter with Harry, Dwayne finally makes it to the safety of his office. “This is a very tough day, for some reason,” Dwayne tells Francine. “Keep everything simple. Keep anybody the least bit nutty out of here.” Francine agrees and tells Dwayne that the twins, Kyle and Lyle, are waiting in his inner office. They have come to talk about a problem at the cave.
Here, Dwayne explicitly tells Francine that he is having a “very tough day,” yet she ignores this as well. It’s also ironic that Dwayne wants nothing to do with people who are “the least bit nutty,” which gestures to the stigma surrounding mental illness in America.
Kyle and Lyle are Dwayne’s twin stepbrothers, and the three of them jointly own the Sacred Miracle Cave, a local tourist attraction and the twins’ only source of income. Dwayne has stepbrothers because after he was adopted, something was “triggered” inside his adoptive parents’ bodies “which made it possible for them to have children after all. This is a common phenomenon.”
As a child, Dwayne grew up feeling illegitimate compared to Kyle and Lyle—the biological children of his parents. Dwayne never felt like he belonged, which the novel implies is where his struggles with depression and mental illness began.
“Them bubbles is halfway up to the Cathedral now,” says Lyle. “The way they’re coming, they’ll be up to Moby Dick in a week or two.” This makes perfect sense to Dwayne. A small stream naturally runs through the cave, and it has become polluted with industrial waste that makes bubbles the size of “ping-pong balls.” The Cathedral, a large opening in the cave, is filled with stalagmites and stalactites, and near the top is a large boulder, painted white to resemble Moby Dick, the Great White Whale.
The pollution taking over the Sacred Miracle Cave is evidence of the industrial waste that Vonnegut argues is directly to blame for the destruction of the planet. Here, instead of lamenting the environment itself, Kyle and Lyle are more worried about lost revenue because of the destroyed environment, which again underscores the negative effects of capitalism on the environment.
Lyle and Kyle had taken their Browning Automatic Shotguns and riddled the cave with shotgun shells, but it did nothing to diminish the bubbles. “They let loose a stink you wouldn’t believe,” Lyle says. The bubbles smell “like athlete’s foot,” and even the ventilation system can’t cleanse the air of the stink. The Sacred Miracle Cave is nearly ruined—the paint is blistering and most of the attractions are buried under mounds of toxic bubbles.
Again, the smell of “athlete’s foot” is symbolic of humanity’s negative effect on the environment. The waste in the cave has been purposefully dumped there, and while Kyle and Lyle don’t know this, it is proof that humankind alone is to blame for pollution and the destruction of the planet.
Deep inside the cave is an attraction made of several statues chained together. The statues depict runaway slaves, and as the story goes, they hid in the cave as they escaped the slavery of the South and headed North. Tourists come from miles around to see the cave, but the story is fake. Dwayne didn’t discover the cave until 1937, and even then, his stepfather had to blow it open with dynamite.
The fake story of the slaves is another example of the exploitation of black people. Lyle and Kyle, two white men, use the story of slavery as a means to make more money, which is dishonest and unethical.
The Sacred Miracle Cave sits on the property that Dwayne’s step-father came to own when he moved to Midland City. The property, known as Bluebird Farm, was originally owned by a freed slave name Josephus Hoobler. Josephus’s descendants ran the farm until the Great Depression when it was foreclosed on by the bank. Around this time, Dwayne’s step-father was hit by a car. The white man driving the car had purchased the farm, and it was awarded to Dwayne’s step-father in an out-of-court settlement. Dwayne’s step-father “contemptuously” referred to the farm as a “God damn Nigger farm.”
Dwayne’s stepfather serves as the personification of racism. His intolerance is open and ugly, and he does not try to hide or temper it. He hates proudly, and in this way, Vonnegut implies that racism in American is equally obvious and ugly. While some racism in America can be passive and underhanded, Dwayne’s stepfather represents those who loudly profess their hate for all to hear. Racism in Vonnegut’s novel, like racism in real life, is impossible to ignore.