Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

by

Kurt Vonnegut

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Breakfast of Champions: Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Kilgore is still in the Galaxie moving closer to Midland City, and four miles away, Dwayne sits in the cocktail lounge of the Holiday Inn. Bunny sits playing the piano, but the two men do not acknowledge each other. Outside, Wayne Hoobler continues to loiter around Dwayne’s Pontiac dealership.
Vonnegut mentions specific makes of cars, which again points to capitalism, advertising, and consumerism in American society. Here, Vonnegut mentions both Ford and Pontiac, two huge manufacturers of American automobiles, which he further implies are directly responsible for the destruction of the planet.  
Themes
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Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
Wayne Hoobler watches as the traffic passes. The sun is setting and many people in Midland City are heading home from work. Wayne supposes he may die of exposure if he sleeps outdoors tonight. Wayne doesn’t have much experience being outside since he has spent most of his life locked up. Wayne “misses the clash of steel doors” and “the bread and stew and the pitchers of milk and coffee.” He watches as a milk truck passes on the interstate.
Wayne Hooble once again reflects the effects of racism on America’s black men. Society has pigeonholed Wayne as a criminal, and as such, he has been institutionalized. Even Wayne believes he belongs in prison, and therefore he “misses the clash of steel doors.” He is most comfortable behind bars, where at least he is guaranteed shelter and food every day.
Themes
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Even though Wayne is not happy, he smiles to “show off his teeth.” The Adult Correctional Institution at Shepherdstown has a wonderful dental program. Since ex-convicts have trouble finding employment “because of their appearance,” the prison offers state-of-the-art dental care. The “theory” is that “good looks begin with good teeth,” so Midland City is crawling with ex-cons who have beautiful dental work. Whenever anyone is arrested with particularly dazzling teeth, the police ask: “All right, boy—how many years you spend in Shepherdstown?”
Ironically, while the prison claims to help prisoners through the dental program by making them more presentable, and therefore more likely to find employment, it actually hurts them. The dental program actually makes the prisoners stand out, which keeps them from future employment and hinders their ability to reenter society. As all of the prisoners in Shepherdstown are black, this is a prime example of institutionalized racism—the practice of the prison helps to ensure that people of color are viewed as criminals by society. 
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Back in the bar, a man enters wearing a pair of sunglasses. “I have come to the Arts Festival incognito,” Vonnegut writes, “to watch a confrontation between two human beings I have created: Dwayne Hoover and Kilgore Trout.” The lenses of Vonnegut’s glasses are “silvered” and appear as “mirrors” to anyone looking at him. “Where other people in the cocktail lounge have eyes,” Vonnegut says, “I have two holes into another universe. I have leaks.”
Vonnegut refers to his mirrored glasses as “leaks” because they serve as a portal to another universe—the universe that Vonnegut creates with his characters and his book, a form of art. 
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“This is a very bad book you’re writing,” Vonnegut says to himself. “I know,” he answers. “You’re afraid you’ll kill yourself the way your mother did,” he says. “I know,” Vonnegut answers.
Here, Vonnegut literally talks to himself, which he implies is a symptom of his own mental illness as well as his own “cry for help.”
Themes
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Sitting alone in the dark behind his leaks, Vonnegut silently mouths the word “schizophrenia.” Vonnegut is “fascinated” with this word. “I do not know for certain that I have this disease,” Vonnegut says, but he had been “making himself hideously uncomfortable” by “refusing to believe what [his] neighbors believe.” He is not quite as “uncomfortable” as he used to be. “I am better now,” Vonnegut writes. “Word of honor: I am better now.”
Again, by admitting his own struggles with mental illness, Vonnegut hopes to destigmatize mental disorders in American society. Vonnegut’s claim that he is “better now” seems to be an effort to convince himself as much as his readers that he is no longer mentally ill.
Themes
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Related Quotes
Bonnie MacMahon, a “white cocktail waitress,” walks by with a drink in her hand. She is about to serve it to Dwayne, whom she knows well. Bonnie and her husband have bought several Pontiacs from Dwayne over the years, but after Bonnie’s husband lost their life savings opening a car wash in Shepherdstown, she was forced to take a job waiting tables. “Breakfast of Champions,” Bonnie says as she places a martini in front of Dwayne. 
Bonnie’s use of the saying “Breakfast of Champions” simultaneously harkens to capitalism and underscores the arbitrary nature of language. Bonnie’s definition for “Breakfast of Champions” has nothing to do with the trademarked breakfast cereal and instead describes a gin martini, which is neither breakfast nor a healthy snack.
Themes
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Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
Dwayne has come to the lounge hoping to find some “distinguished artists” to talk to. He wants to “discover whether they have truths about life which he has never heard before.” He hopes that these “truths” will make his life worth living again and keep him out of the mental institution. Dwayne is deep in thought, and he doesn’t notice when two artists, Beatrice Keedsler, a Gothic novelist, and Rabo Karabekian, a minimalist painter, enter the bar. “This has to be the asshole of the Universe,” Rabo says to Beatrice as he looks around.
Vonnegut implies that Dwayne’s search for the meaning of life at the arts festival is absurd. Dwayne assumes that art is a reflection of beauty and truth; however, Vonnegut argues that is an arbitrary expression of whatever the artist, or patron for that matter, desires. Art is completely subjective; therefore, it is incapable of imparting universal truth or beauty.
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Related Quotes
Back on the interstate, traffic has come to a stop and Kilgore gets out of the car to investigate. He realizes that the Holiday Inn is just up the road, so he decides to walk. Up the interstate a bit, Kilgore discovers that a car has collided with a milk truck. The driver and passenger of the car lay dead in Sugar Creek, where milk and blood begin to flow into the water, adding “to the composition of the sinking ping-pong balls which are being manufactured in the bowels of the Sacred Miracle Cave.”
The pollution that is clogging up Sacred Miracle Cave and flowing through Midland City via Sugar Creek reflects the widespread pollution present in American society. Kilgore can’t go very far without encountering pollution of some kind, which reflects the rampant pollution present in the real world.
Themes
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