Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

by

Kurt Vonnegut

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A minimal painter and one of the “distinguished” artists invited to the Arts Festival in Midland City. Fred T. Barry purchases Rabo’s painting, The Temptation of Saint Anthony, to display at the Mildred Barry Center for the Arts. The painting, a childish swath of green paint with a strip of orange reflective tape, nearly causes a scandal in Midland City because of its fifty-thousand-dollar price tag. No one can believe the arts center has paid so much for such little work, but after Rabo explains the painting as a representation of “an unwavering band of light,” Midland City begins to see its worth. Rabo’s outlandish explanation of his art, and Midland City’s easy and immediate acceptance of it, reflects the arbitrary, and often absurd, meaning of art. Rabo’s painting also implies that art does not have inherent or universal value, and that art is often about making money, not a deeper search for truth or beauty. Despite this satirical representation of art, however, Vonnegut still argues art’s worth, and even suggests that is “sacred.” Rabo’s poetic explanation of his painting brings about the “spiritual climax” of the novel and “transforms” Vonnegut in the process. It is with Rabo’s speech about “unwavering bands of light” that Vonnegut’s people-as-machines narrative begins to unravel and he starts to see people, including his literary characters, as not simply machines but as sentient human beings with thoughts and emotions.

Rabo Karabekian Quotes in Breakfast of Champions

The Breakfast of Champions quotes below are all either spoken by Rabo Karabekian or refer to Rabo Karabekian. 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 19 Quotes

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:
Quotes explanation long mobile

“I now give you my word of honor,” he went on, “that the picture your city owns shows everything about life which truly matters, with nothing left out. It is a picture of the awareness of every animal. It is the immaterial core of every animal—the ‘I am’ to which all messages are sent. It is all that is alive in any of us—in a mouse, in a deer, in a cocktail waitress. It is unwavering and pure, no matter what preposterous adventure may befall us. A sacred picture of Saint Anthony alone is one vertical, unwavering band of light. If a cockroach were near him, or a cocktail waitress, the picture would show two such bands of light. Our awareness is all that is alive and maybe sacred in any of us. Everything else about us is dead machinery.”

Related Characters: Rabo Karabekian (speaker)
Related Symbols: Paintings
Page Number: 226
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Rabo Karabekian Character Timeline in Breakfast of Champions

The timeline below shows where the character Rabo Karabekian appears in Breakfast of Champions. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 18
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 19
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 tabletop. The Mildred Barry Memorial Center... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Beatrice Keedsler is “dismayed” that Rabo has been paid so much money. Still, she hides her feelings and converses politely with... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...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 feel stupid,”... (full context)
Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
Bonnie brings Rabo another martini. “Breakfast of Champions,” she says again as she places the drink in front... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
Rabo asks Bonnie about Mary Alice Miller, the girl on the cover of the program for... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
...that I, the author, am suddenly transformed by what I have done so far.” When Rabo questions Mary Alice Miller, he essentially questions Midland City as well, and makes the people... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
“Listen,” says Rabo. “I have read the editorial against my painting in your wonderful newspaper.” Rabo is aware... (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... (full context)
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
People and Machines Theme Icon
...door, he is sure to find “an unwavering band of light” behind it. “God bless Rabo Karabekian!” Vonnegut writes. (full context)
Chapter 21
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
As Kilgore enters the cocktail lounge, Bonnie MacMahon has just yelled at Rabo Karabekian, and Rabo has illuminated everyone about his painting with his explanation of “bands of... (full context)
Chapter 23
Mental Health Theme Icon
Rabo Karabekian and Beatrice Keedsler try to intervene, but Dwayne attacks them as well. “Never hit... (full context)