Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions


Kurt Vonnegut

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Tombstones Symbol Analysis

Tombstones Symbol Icon

Tombstones, like mirrors, are repeatedly mentioned in Breakfast of Champions, and while they are certainly symbolic of death, they also represent Vonnegut’s preoccupation with the idea of being “gone but not forgotten.” Vonnegut mentions Kilgore’s tombstone and even includes a picture, and he does the same for The Man, the fictional character in one of Kilgore’s novels. These characters are remembered by way of their tombstones, but this is not always the case. 

George Hickman Bannister, a local teenage boy who is killed during a high school football game, has the largest tombstone in Midland City—a towering sixty-two-foot obelisk. Midland City also dedicates a fieldhouse and a movie theater to George’s memory, but just a few years after his death, no one in Midland City remembers who George Hickman Bannister was anymore. In George’s case, it seems, gone really does mean forgotten, and Vonnegut implies that he fears the same fate. He constantly mentions what is written on this tombstone and that tombstone, and even the arts center in Midland City is dedicated in memory of Mildred Barry, a well-known, and now deceased, citizen of Midland City. Tombstones in Breakfast of Champions represent an attempt at immortality—the continuation of life through the memories of others—but like most things in Vonnegut’s novel, this attempt can be futile and is certainly not guaranteed.

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Tombstones Symbol Timeline in Breakfast of Champions

The timeline below shows where the symbol Tombstones appears in Breakfast of Champions. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 15
Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
...Bannister, a local high school kid who was killed playing football on Thanksgiving Day. George’s tombstone, the largest in Midland City’s cemetery, is a tall marble obelisk with a football on... (full context)
Chapter 16
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
At the end of Now It Can Be Told is a picture of The Man’s tombstone as it stands on the virgin planet. Vonnegut includes a drawing of the tombstone and... (full context)