Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

by

Kurt Vonnegut

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Breakfast of Champions: Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Dwayne continues reading the book. “You are surrounded by loving machines, hating machines, greedy machines, unselfish machines, brave machines,” and on and on it goes. “Their only purpose is to stir you up in every conceivable way,” Kilgore’s book tells Dwayne, “so the Creator of the Universe can watch your reactions.” The Creator apologizes to Dwayne for giving him such terrible companions on Earth, and then the Creator apologizes for the state of the planet. The Creator had “programmed robots to abuse [Earth] for millions of years, so it would be a poisonous, festering cheese” when Dwayne got here. The Creator also “programmed” the robots, “regardless of their living conditions, to crave sexual intercourse and adore infants more than almost anything.”
Vonnegut draws a parallel between Kilgore’s book and the actual destruction of the planet due to pollution and overpopulation, which are issues he belabors in other ways as well. Of course, in Kilgore’s book, the plant is polluted and destroyed simply in an effort to produce a free-will response from Dwayne, or whoever happens to read the book, but the environment is nevertheless destroyed. He also explains overpopulation by programming people to “crave” sex and “adore infants,” which add to the problem of overpopulation in American society.
Themes
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
Dwayne finishes the entire book, “having wolfed down tens of thousands of words of such solipsistic whimsey in ten minutes or so,” and walks toward Bunny at the piano. Bunny sees him approaching and is sure that he is about to die, so he begins to meditate. Dwayne grabs him from the back of the head and rolls his head “like a cantaloupe up and down the keys of the piano.” Bunny does not fight back, and blood soaks the keys. “God damn cock-sucking machine!” Dwayne yells at his son.
Vonnegut’s description of Kilgore’s book as “solipsistic whimsey” reflects Dwayne’s egocentrism. Solipsism assumes that the self is the only thing that truly exists, and since he believes everyone else is a robot, Dwayne likewise believes that he is the only one who truly exists in the universe. In this way, Vonnegut implies that American society is equally self-centered. 
Themes
People and Machines Theme Icon
Mental Health Theme Icon
Rabo Karabekian and Beatrice Keedsler try to intervene, but Dwayne attacks them as well. “Never hit a woman, right?” Dwayne yells as he punches Beatrice in the face. He then punches Bonnie MacMahon in the stomach and suddenly stops. “All you robots what to know why my wife [Celia] ate Drāno?” he cries. “I’ll tell you why: She was that kind of machine!”
Again, by thinking of his wife as a robot who was simply programmed to commit suicide, Dwayne avoids having to wrestle with the seriousness of mental illness and the impact it has had on his life. Like American society itself, Dwayne avoids topics he considers uncomfortable or taboo.
Themes
Mental Health Theme Icon
Dwayne’s “rampage” takes him from the Holiday Inn to his Pontiac dealership, where he assaults Francine Pefko. He then runs to the interstate where he is apprehended by two police officers, but before he is, he first stops in the parking lot of his dealership. He is looking for “Niggers,” and he begins to yell: “Olly-olly-ox-in-freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” Wayne Hoobler steps out from a between a row of cars.
Dwayne’s search for black people is framed as a cruel sort of game, which again reflects racism in American society. Dwayne is hoping to find a person of color simply so he can physically attack one.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
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“There you are,” Dwayne says to Wayne. Wayne is a “typical black robot,” and Dwayne begins to tell Wayne about his experience with black people in Midland City. Dwayne had served as the County Executive for the Boy Scouts of America just a few years back, and he had brought in a record number of young black recruits. He had also protested the execution of a young black man at the prison in Shepherdstown, and he hired black people when no one else in town would. Some of his black employees have even been “energetic” and “punctual.” Dwayne winks. “They were programmed that way,” he says. 
Dwayne seems to be attempting to convince himself as well as Wayne that he is not a racist. However, it’s clear that he doesn’t employ and help the black community because he truly cares—he simply wants to make himself feel better about his own efforts to combat social injustice. However, like Francine, Dwayne too perpetuates racist stereotypes. By claiming that, contrary to popular belief, black workers can actually be “energetic” and “punctual” he suggests that most are lazy and frequently late.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Dwayne tells Wayne about his wife, Celia, and about Bunny being a homosexual. “White robots are just like black robots,” Dwayne says, “in that they are programmed to be whatever they are, to do whatever they do.” Then Dwayne swings at Wayne, but he dodges the blow. “African dodger!” Dwayne yells as he continues to try to punch him. Wayne bounces and weaves, avoiding each punch. Dwayne stops, deciding it is no use. “You’re too good for me,” Dwayne says. “Only a perfect hitting machine could hit him.”
Dwyane’s racist rant, however, ultimately concludes with the realization that there is not an inherent or innate difference between black people and white people—the only difference is how society views them. They are essentially the same “robot” that is “programmed” to do different things, which implies that all people, regardless of color, should be equal.
Themes
People and Machines Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Dwayne begins talking again and tells Wayne all about “human slavery.” It is not only black people who are slaves, Dwayne believes, but white workers too. “Coal miners” and “workers on assembly lines” are slaves as well. “I used to think that was such as shame,” Dwayne says, sadly. Now, however, Dwayne could not care less about them. “Why should I care what happens to machines?” Dwayne says, leaving Wayne alone in the parking lot.
Dwayne’s comment that the idea of slavery used to upset him before he began to view people as machines underscores Vonnegut’s argument that thinking of people in this way allows for society to more easily accept and perpetuate atrocities such as slavery. Dwayne doesn’t have to care about slavery if those it affects aren’t really flesh and blood humans. 
Themes
People and Machines Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon