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.