Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

by

Kurt Vonnegut

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Kurt Vonnegut Character Analysis

The author of Breakfast of Champions and “the Creator” of all the characters. Breakfast of Champions is Vonnegut’s fiftieth birthday present to himself, and he uses it as means to “cleanse” his mind and rid it of all the nonsense that has accumulated there. The things in Vonnegut’s mind—the destruction of the planet, mental illness, systemic racism, and the uneven distribution of wealth—are “useless and ugly” and “don’t fit together nicely.” Through his novel, he “throws out” these social injustices and others, and he even “throws out” characters from past novels. “I’m not going to put on anymore puppet shows,” Vonnegut writes. As Vonnegut writes, he repeatedly interjects to offer insight into characters and situations, to provide background information and context, or simply to remind the reader that the book and everyone in it is his creation. Like Dwayne Hoover, Vonnegut struggles with his own mental health. He frequently mentions taking medication, so he doesn’t “feel blue,” and he even talks about Martha, his psychiatrist, whom he “likes a lot.” Vonnegut depicts his own mental illness, as well as others’, to destigmatize and normalize mental illness. He argues for visibility and help, and he implores readers to notice and act when they witness mental illness and suffering in others. Vonnegut pushes his metafictional novel even further yet, and when his characters converge at the Arts Festival in Midland City, he enters the lounge at the Holiday Inn. There, “incognito” behind a pair of mirrored sunglasses, Vonnegut is “transformed” by Rabo Karabekian’s painting, The Temptation of Saint Anthony. Vonnegut refers to his transformation as “the spiritual climax of the book,” during which he is reminded that everyone, including his characters, possesses a “sacred” and deep “unwavering band of light.” In this way, Vonnegut reminds his readers that all humans are sentient beings who deserve to be respected and heard. Ultimately, Vonnegut comes face-to-face with his character, Kilgore Trout, and grants him his “freedom.” Even Kilgore has an “unwavering band of light,” and as such, is not right for Vonnegut to own him. When Vonnegut sets Kilgore free, he metaphorically rejects all forms of slavery and discrimination.

Kurt Vonnegut Quotes in Breakfast of Champions

The Breakfast of Champions quotes below are all either spoken by Kurt Vonnegut or refer to Kurt Vonnegut. 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.
Preface Quotes

I think I am trying to clear my head of all the junk in there—the assholes, the flags, the underpants. Yes—there is a picture in this book of underpants. I’m throwing out characters from my other books, too. I’m not going to put on any more puppet shows.

I think I am trying to make my head as empty as it was when I was born onto this damaged planet fifty years ago.

I suspect that this is something most white Americans, and nonwhite Americans who imitate white Americans, should do. The things other people have put into my head, at any rate, do not fit together nicely, are often useless and ugly, are out of proportion with one another, are out of proportion with life as it really is outside my head.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker)
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile
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:
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The teachers told the children that [1492] was when their continent was discovered by human beings. Actually, millions of human beings were already living full and imaginative lives on the continent in 1492. That was simply the year in which sea pirates began to cheat and rob and kill them.

Here was another piece of evil nonsense which children were taught: that the sea pirates eventually created a government which became a beacon of freedom to human beings everywhere else.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker)
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
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A lot of the people on the wrecked planet were Communists. They had a theory that what was left of the planet should be shared more or less equally among all the people, who hadn’t asked to come to a wrecked planet in the first place. Meanwhile, more babies were arriving all the time—kicking and screaming, yelling for milk.

In some places people would actually try to eat mud or suck on gravel while babies were being born just a few feet away.

And so on.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker)
Page Number: 12-13
Explanation and Analysis:
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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:
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Chapter 4 Quotes

Dwayne stayed in his vacant lot for a while. He played the radio. All the Midland City stations were asleep for the night, but Dwayne picked up a country music station in West Virginia, which offered him ten different kinds of flowering shrubs and five fruit trees for six dollars, C.O.D.

“Sounds good to me,” said Dwayne. He meant it. Almost all the messages which were sent and received in his country, even the telepathic ones, had to do with buying or selling some damn thing. They were like lullabies to Dwayne.

Related Characters: Dwayne Hoover (speaker), Kurt Vonnegut (speaker)
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:
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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:
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Chapter 11 Quotes

The young man went back to burnishing the automobile. His life was not worth living. He had a feeble will to survive. He thought the planet was terrible, that he never should have been sent there. Some mistake had been made. He had no friends or relatives. He was put in cages all the time.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Young Black Man / Wayne Hoobler
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:
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“Our names are so close,” said the young man, “it’s the good Lord telling us both what to do.”

Dwayne Hoover didn’t ask him what his name was, but the young man told him anyway, radiantly: “My name, sir, is Wayne Hoobler.”

All around Midland City, Hoobler was a common Nigger name.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Young Black Man / Wayne Hoobler (speaker), Dwayne Hoover
Page Number: 101
Explanation and Analysis:
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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:
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Chapter 15 Quotes

It didn’t matter much what Dwayne said. It hadn’t mattered much for years. It didn’t matter much what most people in Midland City said out loud, except when they were talking about money or structures or travel or machinery—or other measurable things. Every person had a clearly defined part to play—as a black person, a female high school drop-out, a Pontiac dealer, a gynecologist, a gas-conversion burner installer. If a person stopped living up to expectations, because of bad chemicals or one thing or another, everybody went on imagining that the person was living up to expectations anyway.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Dwayne Hoover
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 17 Quotes

Listen: Bunny’s mother and my mother were different sorts of human beings, but they were both beautiful in exotic ways, and they both boiled over with chaotic talk about love and peace and wars and evil and desperation, of better days coming by and by, of worse days coming by and by. And both our mothers committed suicide. Bunny’s mother ate Drāno. My mother ate sleeping pills, which wasn’t nearly as horrible.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), George / Bunny Hoover, Celia Hoover
Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 18 Quotes

There in the cocktail lounge, peering out through my leaks at a world of my own invention, I mouthed this word: schizophrenia.

The sound and appearance of the word had fascinated me for many years. It sounded and looked to me like a human being sneezing in a blizzard of soapflakes.

I did not and do not know for certain that I have that disease. This much I knew and know: I was making myself hideously uncomfortable by not narrowing my attention to details of life which were immediately important, and by refusing to believe what my neighbors believed.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker)
Related Symbols: Mirrors
Page Number: 198-199
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 19 Quotes

And he went on staring at me, even though I wanted to stop him now. Here was the thing about my control over the characters I created: I could only guide their movements approximately, since they were such big animals. There was inertia to overcome. It wasn’t as though I was connected to them by steel wires. It was more as though I was connected to them by stale rubberbands.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Harold Newcomb Wilbur
Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:
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I had no respect whatsoever for the creative works of either the painter or the novelist. I thought Karabekian with his meaningless pictures had entered into a conspiracy with millionaires to make poor people feel stupid. I thought Beatrice Keedsler had joined hands with other old-fashioned storytellers to make people believe that life had leading characters, minor characters, significant details, insignificant details, that it had lessons to be learned, tests to be passed, and a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Related Characters: Kurt Vonnegut (speaker), Rabo Karabekian, Beatrice Keedsler
Related Symbols: Paintings
Page Number: 214-215
Explanation and Analysis:
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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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Kurt Vonnegut Character Timeline in Breakfast of Champions

The timeline below shows where the character Kurt Vonnegut appears in Breakfast of Champions. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Preface
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
Vonnegut dedicates this book to Phoebe Hurty, a forty-year-old woman he met during the Great Depression... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
Phoebe spoke “bawdily” to Vonnegut and her sons. She was “funny” and “liberating,” and she taught them to be “impolite... (full context)
People and Machines Theme Icon
This book expresses Vonnegut’s “suspicion” that “human beings are robots, are machines,” which stems from his own encounters seeing... (full context)
People and Machines Theme Icon
Mental Health Theme Icon
Vonnegut also thinks of people as “huge, rubbery test tubes” with “chemical reactions seething inside.” When... (full context)
People and Machines Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
This book is Vonnegut’s “fiftieth-birthday present” to himself. At fifty, Vonnegut is “programmed” to act “childishly,” and so this... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
...his birthday, November 11, 1922, this book is “a sidewalk strewn with junk, trash which [Vonnegut] throws over [his] shoulder.” Vonnegut’s birthday, a “sacred day called Armistice Day,” is dedicated to... (full context)
Chapter 1
People and Machines Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
...around the world. There is a statue of the “imaginary beacon” for all to see (Vonnegut includes a picture of the beacon, or torch, which looks like a “ice-cream cone on... (full context)
Mental Health Theme Icon
...and direction.” Together, “bad chemicals and bad ideas are the Yin and Yang of madness” (Vonnegut includes a drawing of the Yin and Yang symbol, the “Chinese symbol of harmony”). (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Mental Health Theme Icon
...American Academy of Art and Sciences will honor Kilgore with a memorial upon his death. Vonnegut includes a picture of the monument and it reads: “Kilgore Trout / 1907-1981/ ‘We are... (full context)
Chapter 2
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...have any “charm.” Dwayne has charm but not Kilgore. “I can have oodles of charm,” Vonnegut says, “when I want to.” (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
...word “beaver” is “code” used by men to talk about a woman’s vagina. “A beaver,” Vonnegut writes, is “actually a large rodent.” He includes a drawing of a beaver as well... (full context)
Chapter 3
People and Machines Theme Icon
Kilgore considers Rosewater’s letter “an invasion of privacy.” Vonnegut interrupts to say that Kilgore Trout is entirely his creation. “I made him snaggle-tooted,” he... (full context)
Chapter 4
Race and Racism Theme Icon
...the dealership was “right on the edge of the Nigger part of town. A Nigger,” Vonnegut says, “is a human being who is black.” Before the dealership moved to the interstate,... (full context)
People and Machines Theme Icon
Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
Mental Health Theme Icon
...trying to sell him trees and shrubs. Most messages “sent and received in [Dwayne’s] country,” Vonnegut writes, “have to do with buying or selling some damn thing.” As Dwayne sits there... (full context)
Chapter 8
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
Mental Health Theme Icon
...chemicals” and “eat them or sniff them.” They even “inject” chemicals using a special “device.” Vonnegut includes a drawing of a hypodermic needle. (full context)
Chapter 10
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
The truck driver “has a point,” Vonnegut writes. “The planet is being destroyed by manufacturing processes, and what is being manufactured is... (full context)
Chapter 11
Race and Racism Theme Icon
...his name. “My name, sir,” the man offers, “is Wayne Hoobler.” As Dwayne walks away, Vonnegut interrupts. “Hoobler,” Vonnegut says, “is a common Nigger name” in Midland City.   (full context)
Chapter 16
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...Told is a picture of The Man’s tombstone as it stands on the virgin planet. Vonnegut includes a drawing of the tombstone and it reads: “NOT EVEN THE CREATOR OF THE... (full context)
Chapter 17
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...and each time Bunny came home, he was adorned with new medals and accolades. “Buggery,” Vonnegut clarifies, consists “of sticking one’s penis in somebody else’s asshole or mouth.” (full context)
Mental Health Theme Icon
...until she “knocked herself off with Drāno” that his mother was “crazy as a bedbug.” Vonnegut again interrupts the story. “My mother was, too,” Vonnegut writes.  (full context)
Mental Health Theme Icon
Both Celia and Vonnegut’s mother couldn’t “stand to have [their] picture taken.” Whenever anyone aimed a camera at them,... (full context)
Chapter 18
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Mental Health Theme Icon
“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... (full context)
Mental Health Theme Icon
Sitting alone in the dark behind his leaks, Vonnegut silently mouths the word “schizophrenia.” Vonnegut is “fascinated” with this word. “I do not know... (full context)
Chapter 19
People and Machines Theme Icon
...par with the Creator of the Universe here in the dark in the cocktail lounge,” Vonnegut says. As Bonnie MacMahon brings him another drink, she eyes him suspiciously. “Can you see... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Harold stares at Vonnegut, and Vonnegut wants him to stop, but he can’t force him. “Here is the thing... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
...Hoover could give a free-willed reaction to such a holocaust.” The phone is ringing because Vonnegut makes Ned Lingamon, the most decorated veteran in Midland City, call Harold. “Don’t hang up,”... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
As Harold talks to Ned, Vonnegut draws a colorless representation of Rabo Karabekian’s painting, The Temptation of Saint Anthony, on his... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...have no respect whatsoever for the creative works of either the painter or the novelist,” Vonnegut says. Rabo, it seems, has “entered into a conspiracy with millionaires to make poor people... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
“Let others bring order to chaos,” Vonnegut says. “I will bring chaos to order, instead, which I think I have done.” If... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
“And now comes the spiritual climax of this book,” Vonnegut interrupts, “for it is at this point that I, the author, am suddenly transformed by... (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... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
People and Machines Theme Icon
Kilgore’s “situation,” Vonnegut says, is that he is a “machine,” but this is “complex” and “tragic.” There is... (full context)
Chapter 21
People and Machines Theme Icon
...Told, and he looks anxiously around the lounge. Sitting in the bar, Dwayne, Kilgore, and Vonnegut form “an equilateral triangle about twelve feet,” and each of them is “an unwavering band... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
...been a Nigger even spend the night in Shepherdstown.” Incidentally, this is why, according to Vonnegut, Bonnie MacMahon’s carwash went bankrupt. To be successful, a carwash “needs cheap and plentiful labor,... (full context)
Chapter 22
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Mental Health Theme Icon
Sitting in the cocktail lounge, Vonnegut decides that Dwayne has taken a “course in speed-reading” at the Young Men’s Christian Association.... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Vonnegut also decides that Kilgore could never have made it to Midland City from New York... (full context)
Chapter 24
Mental Health Theme Icon
...from rabies after she was bitten by a bat. “My psychiatrist is also named Martha,” Vonnegut writes. Martha is on vacation now, but Vonnegut “likes her a lot.” (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...the kind of book where people get what is coming to them in the end,” Vonnegut writes. Except for Don Breedlove, who raped Patty Keene behind the Bannister Memorial Fieldhouse. Don... (full context)
Epilogue
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...but no one bothers to tell Kilgore. As he begins walking toward the arts center, Vonnegut sits “waiting to intercept him, about six blocks away.” The part of town where Vonnegut... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Mental Health Theme Icon
Vonnegut gets out of the car to approach Kilgore, but Kilgore tuns and walks quickly in... (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... (full context)