Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions


Kurt Vonnegut

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Themes and Colors
Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity Theme Icon
People and Machines Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
The Destruction of the Planet Theme Icon
Capitalism and Consumerism Theme Icon
Mental Health Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Breakfast of Champions, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Art, Subjectivity, and Absurdity

Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical novel Breakfast of Champions follows Kilgore Trout, a little-known writer on his way to an arts festival in the American Midwest. The novel is best described as a form of anti-art, a creative expression that questions and rejects the traditional form and function of art. While the role of art and artists is often the topic of hot debate, art is generally understood as something beautiful or otherwise impactful that…

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People and Machines

Throughout Breakfast of Champions, Vonnegut makes countless references to industrialization and repeatedly associates people with machinery. He reasons that some “machines” are made by their Creator—whoever that may be—to be women, some are made to be poor, some are made black, “and so on,” and their lives are a direct result of whatever they are engineered to be. The idea of people as machines creates a certain emotional distance between people, which in turn allows…

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Race and Racism

In Breakfast of Champions, Vonnegut vows to “clear [his] head of all the junk,” and race and racism are at the top of his list of “junk” to be cleared. The result is a descriptive and forward, and often offensive, portrayal of race and racism in American society. “Color was everything,” Vonnegut writes. Indeed, color is everything in Breakfast of Champions, and Vonnegut introduces nearly all characters in relation to color. Race determines…

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The Destruction of the Planet

Breakfast of Champions takes place on Earth, “a planet which is dying fast.” As protagonist Kilgore Trout hitchhikes across the American Midwest, he is confronted by a barrage of pollution and waste. Vonnegut refers to Earth as a “poisonous, festering cheese,” and he speaks pointedly about the depletion of the ozone layer. He claims the destruction of the planet is largely due to overpopulation and industrial pollution, which he further blames on greed, but Vonnegut’s…

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Capitalism and Consumerism

As Vonnegut “throws out” social injustices in Breakfast of Champions, he talks specifically “about the distribution of wealth” in American society and even speaks of his own poverty during the Great Depression. At one point in the novel, Vonnegut’s protagonist, Kilgore Trout, meets the Governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller, in a grocery store, but he doesn’t know who he is. Vonnegut claims that due to “peculiar laws on that part of the…

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Mental Health

After Dwayne Hoover’s wife, Celia, who incidentally is “crazy as a bedbug,” commits suicide by drinking Drāno (a drain-cleaning chemical), Dwayne begins to struggle with his own mental health. The stress of his wife’s death, in addition to his homosexual son, Bunny’s, revelation that he is really a woman, causes Dwayne to completely take leave of his senses, and he spirals into insanity, lashing out violently at his son and other innocent…

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