Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

by

Kurt Vonnegut

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Kilgore Trout Character Analysis

One of the main characters in Breakfast of Champions, Kilgore is a prolific but little-known science fiction writer. Of course, no one other than Eliot Rosewater, an “eccentric millionaire” and Kilgore’s only fan, has ever heard of Kilgore Trout, who makes his actual living installing aluminum storm windows. Reputable publishers would never dream of accepting his work, and most of his novels and short stories are published by “World Classics Library,” a company in the business of “hard-core pornography.” Kilgore never keeps copies of his work and he never knows when or where his writing will be published, so when he is invited to speak at an arts festival in the American Midwest, he is convinced there must be some mistake. Initially, Kilgore has no desire to go to the festival and make a “laughing stock” of himself, but he decides “an unhappy failure” is exactly what the festival needs. He vows to show them what they have never seen before: an artist who devoted his life “to a search for truth and beauty—and didn’t find doodley-squat!” Kilgore’s work, although often absurd, offers surprisingly powerful commentary on pressing social issues, such as environmental pollution, overpopulation, and the role and responsibility of art and artists. One of his novels, Now It Can Be Told, is in the form of a letter from the Creator of the Universe to the Man—the only living creature with free will in a universe otherwise populated by “fully automated robots”—and it turns Dwayne Hoover, a mentally ill car salesman, into a “homicidal maniac.” Kilgore, who believes that “ideas or the lack of them cause disease,” becomes a prominent figure in the field of mental health after Dwayne’s public breakdown, and he “advances his theories” though his writing, which becomes wildly popular. It is through the character of Kilgore Trout that the novel critiques the role of art and artists in American society and ultimately concludes that art’s value and meaning are completely subjective and open to interpretation.

Kilgore Trout Quotes in Breakfast of Champions

The Breakfast of Champions quotes below are all either spoken by Kilgore Trout or refer to Kilgore Trout. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dial Press edition of Breakfast of Champions published in 2011.
Chapter 1 Quotes

The motto of Dwayne Hoover’s and Kilgore Trout’s nation was this, which meant in a language nobody spoke anymore, Out of Many, One: “E pluribus unum.”

The undippable flag was a beauty, and the anthem and the vacant motto might not have mattered much, if it weren’t for this: a lot of citizens were so ignored and cheated and insulted that they thought they might be in the wrong country, or even on the wrong planet, that some terrible mistake had been made. It might have comforted them some if their anthem and their motto had mentioned fairness or brotherhood or hope or happiness, had somehow welcomed them to the society and its real estate.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Kilgore Trout, Dwayne Hoover
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

It shook up Trout to realize that even he could bring evil into the world—in the form of bad ideas. And, after Dwayne was carted off to a lunatic asylum in a canvas camisole, Trout became a fanatic on the importance of ideas as causes and cures for diseases.

But nobody would listen to him. He was a dirty old man in the wilderness, crying out among the trees and underbrush, “Ideas or the lack of them can cause disease!”

Related Characters: Kilgore Trout (speaker), Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Dwayne Hoover
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 3 Quotes

“They don’t want anything but smilers out there,” Trout said to his parakeet. “Unhappy failures need not apply.” But his mind wouldn’t leave it alone at that. He got an idea which he found very tangy: “But maybe an unhappy failure is exactly what they need to see.”

He became energetic after that. “Bill, Bill—” he said, “listen, I’m leaving the cage, but I’m coming back. I’m going out there to show them what nobody has ever seen at an arts festival before: a representative of all the thousands of artists who devoted their entire lives to a search for truth and beauty—and didn’t find doodley-squat!”

Related Characters: Kilgore Trout (speaker)
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 10 Quotes

[The truck driver] had a point. The planet was being destroyed by manufacturing processes, and what was being manufactured was lousy, by and large.

Then Trout made a good point, too. “Well,” he said, “I used to be a conservationist. I used to weep and wail about people shooting bald eagles with automatic shotguns from helicopters and all that, but I gave it up. There’s a river in Cleveland which is so polluted that it catches fire about once a year. That used to make me sick, but I laugh about it now. When some tanker accidently dumps its load in the ocean, and kills millions of birds and billions of fish, I say, ‘More power to Standard Oil,’ or whoever it was that dumped it.” Trout raised his arms in celebration. “‘Up your ass with Mobil gas,’” he said.

Related Characters: Kilgore Trout (speaker), Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), The Truck Driver
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 14 Quotes

The surface of West Virginia, with its coal and trees and topsoil gone, was rearranging what was left of itself in conformity with the laws of gravity. It was collapsing into all the holes which had been dug into it. Its mountains, which had once found it easy to stand by themselves, were sliding into valleys now.

The demolition of West Virginia had taken place with the approval of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the State Government, which drew their power from the people.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Kilgore Trout
Page Number: 123
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“That was the last story I ever read,” said the driver. “My God—that must be all of fifteen years ago. The story was about another planet. It was a crazy story. They had museums full of paintings all over the place, and the government used a kind of roulette wheel to decide what to put in the museums, and what to throw out.”

Related Characters: The Truck Driver (speaker), Kilgore Trout
Related Symbols: Paintings
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Epilogue Quotes

“I am approaching my fiftieth birthday, Mr. Trout,” I said. “I am cleansing and renewing myself for the very different sorts of years to come. Under similar spiritual conditions, Count Tolstoy freed his serfs. Thomas Jefferson freed his slaves. I am going to set at liberty all the literary characters who have served me so loyally during my writing career.”

“You are the only one I am telling. For the others, tonight will be a night like any other night. Arise, Mr. Trout, you are free, you are free.”

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Kilgore Trout
Page Number: 301
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Kilgore Trout Character Timeline in Breakfast of Champions

The timeline below shows where the character Kilgore Trout appears in Breakfast of Champions. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
...of “two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which is dying fast.” Kilgore Trout, a “nobody” science-fiction writer, assumes that his meaningless life is nearing its end, but... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
“Listen:” Kilgore and Dwayne live in the United States of America, where “a lot of citizens are... (full context)
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
By the time Dwayne and Kilgore meet, America is “the richest and most powerful country on the planet.” Many other countries,... (full context)
Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
Dwayne and Kilgore’s America is “opposed to Communism” and doesn’t make citizens share if they don’t want to;... (full context)
People and Machines Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Dwayne will get his “bad ideas” from Kilgore. Kilgore believes himself to be “not only harmless but invisible,” and he often “supposes he... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Mental Health Theme Icon
When Trout realizes that that he can “bring evil into the world” through “the form of bad... (full context)
Chapter 2
Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
Kilgore has a parakeet named Bill, and like Dwayne, Kilgore spends most of his time talking... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Kilgore is in the habit of calling mirrors “leaks.” He pretends that mirrors are “holes between... (full context)
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In 1972, when Kilgore meets Dwayne, Kilgore is living in a “basement apartment in Cohoes, New York.” He is... (full context)
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Kilgore is the author of over one hundred novels and two thousand short stories, but decent... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
“World Classics Library” never tells Kilgore when or where his writing will be published, so he must search pornography stores to... (full context)
Chapter 3
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In 1972, Kilgore receives his first piece of fan mail from an “eccentric millionaire” named Eliot Rosewater. Kilgore... (full context)
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
Kilgore can’t be the president, however, because he was born in Bermuda. His father had been... (full context)
People and Machines Theme Icon
Kilgore considers Rosewater’s letter “an invasion of privacy.” Vonnegut interrupts to say that Kilgore Trout is... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...for the Arts in Midland City. Barry admits that he has not read any of Kilgore’s books, but Kilgore comes “highly recommended by Eliot Rosewater.” Inside the envelope is a check... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Fred T. Barry invites Kilgore because he needs a “fabulously valuable oil painting” to showcase during the Festival. He can’t... (full context)
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Kilgore has no intention of becoming the “laughing stock” of the Festival, but after thinking more... (full context)
Chapter 5
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
People and Machines Theme Icon
Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Kilgore has hitchhiked to New York City and is trying to sleep in a movie theater.... (full context)
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Kilgore has already found two of his books, Plague on Wheels and Now It Can Be... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
As Kilgore sits in the empty theater with his books and clothes in his lap, he makes... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...movie theater in New York City. “No more fun tonight, grandfather,” the manager says to Kilgore. “Time to go home.” Kilgore slowly gathers his belongings and heads out the front door... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Trout tells the manager of the theater that he is looking for “a cheap hotel,” and... (full context)
Chapter 10
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
After leaving the police station, Kilgore gets a ride with a truck driver “hauling seventy-eight thousand pounds of Spanish olives.” The... (full context)
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
...being destroyed by manufacturing processes, and what is being manufactured is lousy, by and large.” Kilgore tells the trucker that he too used to be “a conservationist,” but he has “given... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
Kilgore tells the truck driver that “God isn’t any conservationist,” which would make anybody who tries... (full context)
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
As they drive, Kilgore makes up a story called “Gilgongo!” about a planet where there is “too much creation... (full context)
Chapter 12
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Kilgore is still riding with the truck driver just outside Philadelphia. Kilgore has forgotten the trucker’s... (full context)
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
The truck driver asks Kilgore if he is married. “Three times,” Kilgore answers. Kilgore tells the driver about his son... (full context)
Chapter 14
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
The truck driver and Kilgore make their way into West Virginia, which has been destroyed by coal mining. Massive holes... (full context)
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
Kilgore supposes that all the heat from the coal has escaped into outer space, but “like... (full context)
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
The truck driver stops at a nearby McDonald’s restaurant and Kilgore goes inside for a cup of coffee. Kilgore sits down next to an old coal... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
Back on the road, the truck driver asks Kilgore why he wants to go to Midland City. Kilgore lies and tells him that his... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...entire weekend but sit and read toilet paper. The driver read one story, he tells Kilgore, about a “crazy” planet where the government used a “roulette wheel” to assign the worth... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...the wheel is “rigged,” and the government official responsible for spinning the wheel commits suicide. Kilgore doesn’t tell the truck driver that he is the author of his toilet paper, and... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Incidentally, as Kilgore makes his way to Midland City, he unknowingly passes through the part of West Virginia... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
Kilgore, who has since hitched a ride with a man driving a Ford Galaxie, is making... (full context)
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Kilgore begins to thumb through his novel, Now It Can Be Told, which is the book... (full context)
Chapter 18
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
Kilgore is still in the Galaxie moving closer to Midland City, and four miles away, Dwayne... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Chapter 20
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
“While my life is being renewed by the words of Rabo Karabekian,” Vonnegut writes, Kilgore is standing in the interstate looking at the Holiday Inn. A small patch of Sugar... (full context)
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Kilgore’s “situation,” Vonnegut says, is that he is a “machine,” but this is “complex” and “tragic.”... (full context)
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As Kilgore arrives at the Holiday Inn, he hopes that his plastic-coated feet will leave marks on... (full context)
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Milo Maritimo, a “beautiful young desk clerk,” greets Kilgore happily. “Mr. Trout,” Milo says in “rapture.” He would know Kilgore anywhere, he says. “Welcome... (full context)
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Milo shows Kilgore to his room so that he can change into his high school tuxedo and the... (full context)
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“Oh, Mr. Trout,” Milo says, “teach us to sing and dance and laugh and cry.” Kilgore is stunned.... (full context)
Chapter 21
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As Kilgore enters the cocktail lounge, Bonnie MacMahon has just yelled at Rabo Karabekian, and Rabo has... (full context)
People and Machines Theme Icon
Kilgore has a copy of his novel, Now It Can Be Told, and he looks anxiously... (full context)
Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
Kilgore “dreads eyes contact,” so he begins to look through the envelope Fred T. Barry sent... (full context)
Chapter 22
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Mental Health Theme Icon
...a “course in speed-reading” at the Young Men’s Christian Association. This way, when Dwayne finds Kilgore’s book, he will be able to read it fast. Vonnegut then takes a “white pill”... (full context)
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Vonnegut also decides that Kilgore could never have made it to Midland City from New York in the time that... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
The jacket Kilgore sees at the hospital is from the only “Nigger high school” Midland City had for... (full context)
People and Machines Theme Icon
Mental Health Theme Icon
...decide that it is time for him to discover “the secrets of life.” Dwayne approaches Kilgore, who is holding his book, Now It Can Be Told, and points to the book.... (full context)
Chapter 24
People and Machines Theme Icon
Mental Health Theme Icon
...canvas restraining sheets.” He is unaware of his surroundings and yells, “Goodbye, Blue Monday!” as Kilgore boards the ambulance unassisted. Kilgore is one of the “walking wounded,” and he holds up... (full context)
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When Kilgore tried to stop Dwayne from beating Francine, Dwayne bit off Kilgore’s finger and spit it... (full context)
Epilogue
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...Barry postpones the Festival on account of Dwayne’s outburst, but no one bothers to tell Kilgore. As he begins walking toward the arts center, Vonnegut sits “waiting to intercept him, about... (full context)
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Vonnegut gets out of the car to approach Kilgore, but Kilgore tuns and walks quickly in the other direction. Vonnegut jumps in the car... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
“Under similar spiritual conditions,” Vonnegut tells Kilgore, “Count Tolstoy freed his serfs. Thomas Jefferson freed his slaves. I am going to set... (full context)