Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

by

Kurt Vonnegut

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Dwayne Hoover’s secretary and mistress. Francine’s husband is killed in the Vietnam War, and after Dwayne’s wife, Celia, commits suicide, Dwayne and Francine begin an affair. Francine reflects a stereotypical woman who lives to serve and comfort her man, and even when Dwayne treats her badly and verbally abuses her, she continues to profess her love for him. She is incredibly loyal to Dwayne and sings his praises to anyone who will listen. One day, after sneaking off to a hotel with Dwayne in the middle of the afternoon, she makes a racist reference to black people in Shepherdstown and suggests that Dwayne open a Colonel Sanders Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise there. Dwayne, who is mentally ill, snaps and accuses her of being “a whore” who is only trying to squeeze a chicken franchise out of him. Francine ultimately forgives him, but the incident lingers with Dwayne, and after he goes completely insane, he physically assaults Francine and gives her the public beating he believes “she so richly deserves.” Like most people in Midland City, Francine fails to notice Dwayne’s mental decline until it is too late. Francine’s failure to notice and respond to Dwayne’s “cries for help” echo American society’s broader tendency to ignore the mentally ill until they become a public nuisance.
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Francine Pefko Character Timeline in Breakfast of Champions

The timeline below shows where the character Francine Pefko appears in Breakfast of Champions. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
Mental Health Theme Icon
...cries for help.” The local paper runs an editorial called “A CRY FOR HELP,” and Francine Pefko, Dwayne’s “white secretary and mistress,” the woman who knows him best, claims that he... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Francine works at Dwayne Hoover’s Exit Eleven Pontiac Village. The dealership is near the interstate, next... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
...is the only person to notice Dwayne’s change in mental status, and he talks to Francine about it. “Something has come over Dwayne,” Harry says. “I don’t find him so charming... (full context)
Mental Health Theme Icon
“Listen:” Harry tells Francine that Dwayne is “changing.” Harry can feel it. He tells Francine to go ask Vernon... (full context)
Chapter 13
Mental Health Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 15
People and Machines Theme Icon
At the dealership, Francine is hard at work. Dwayne goes into his office and calls her, even though she... (full context)
People and Machines Theme Icon
Francine doesn’t mind going—she thinks it is “her duty” to do so—but she must first convince... (full context)
Mental Health Theme Icon
Gloria finally agrees to sit at Francine’s desk. “I don’t have nerve enough to commit suicide,” she says, “so I might as... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Francine and Dwayne talk about the local prison in Shepherdstown, and Francine marvels at how most... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Francine is shocked. She doesn’t know what Dwayne is talking about. “Every woman is a whore,”... (full context)
People and Machines Theme Icon
Mental Health Theme Icon
As Francine cries, Dwayne begins to regret his outburst. “I’m so confused,” he says and asks Francine... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
“I’ve lost my way,” Dwayne says to Francine. He wants to talk to someone about his feelings, but he has already talked to... (full context)
Chapter 23
Race and Racism 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,... (full context)
Chapter 24
People and Machines Theme Icon
Mental Health Theme Icon
...hand for Dr. Ukwende to assess. Kilgore had grabbed Dwayne from behind as he gave Francine Pefko the beating “his bad chemicals made him think she richly deserved.” He had already... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
When Kilgore tried to stop Dwayne from beating Francine, Dwayne bit off Kilgore’s finger and spit it into Sugar Creek. “This isn’t the kind... (full context)