Author: Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Title: Breakfast Of Champions
First Dell Printing: January 1975
Read Dell Printing: July 1984
Breakfast of Champions is a story about two persons, Kilgore Trout and Dwayne Hoover.
Kilgore Trout, an unknown and unsuccessful science fiction writer, whose stories have only appeared in adult magazines, receives an invitation of the Arts Festival by his greatest fan, Elliot Rosewater. Kilgore, at first, rejects the invitation, but he decides to go because he wants to represent all the thousands of artists who devoted their entire lives to a search for truth and beauty in the arts. He intends to hitchhike to the arts festival in Midland City. Along the way, he finds himself being robbed. He continues hitchhiking and is picked up by various truckers. He walks to his hotel in Midland City, because there’s a huge traffic jam on the highway one mile away. Kilgore arrives at the hotel. He travels down to the cocktail lounge, where he will meet Dwayne Hoover soon.
Dwayne Hoover, a famous Pontiac automobile dealer, personalises the perfect image of a successful American citizen with his good-running business and his family and appears to be fine. But in reality Hoover’s life is one bloody mess. His wife is mentally ill and he has an affair with his secretary. And his only son turns out to be a homosexual. His secretary advised him to go to the Midland City Arts Festival where he can talk to people who a different than the others in town.
B1: Important Fragments
‘Every time you went into the library,’ said the book, ‘the Creator of the universe held hid breath. With such a higgledy-piggledy cultural smorgasbord before you, what would you, with your free will, choose?’
‘Your parents were fighting machines and self-pitying machines,’ said the book. ‘Your mother was programmed to bowl out your father for being a defective moneymaking machine, and your father was programmed to bawl out for being a defective housekeeping machine. They were programmed to bawl each other out for being defective lovemaking machines.
‘Then your father was programmed to stomp out of the house and slam the door. This automatically turned your mother into a weeping machine. And your father would go down to a tavern where you would get drunk with some other drinking machines. Then all the drinking machines would go to a whore-house and rent fucking machines. And your father would drag himself home to become an apologizing machine. And your mother would become a very slow forgiving machine.’
And Dwayne wandered over to a admire a tremendous earth-moving machine which had cleared this side and dug the cellar hole. The machine was idle now, caked with mud. Dwayne asked a white workman how many horsepower drove the machine. All the Workmen were white.
The workman said this: ‘I don’t know how many horsepower, but I know what we call it.’
‘What do you call it?’ said Dwayne, relieved to find his echolalia was subsiding.
‘We call it The Hundred-Nigger Machine,’ said the workman. This had reference to a time when black man had done most of the heavy digging in Midland City.
B2: Important persons:
The Story is mainly based around two characters, Kilgore Trout and Dwayne Hoover. A lot of other characters appear during the story, but none of them is being described as thoroughly as Kilgore Trout and Dwayne Hoover. They are flat characters, and therefore we will focus on the only two round characters, Kilgore Trout and Dwayne Hoover.
Kilgore Trout is born in 1908, and died in 1981. According to the novel, Trout meets Dwayne Hoover twenty years before his dead, so he must be 53 years old around that time.
Kilgore Trout is a science-fiction writer, but he didn’t have any success yet. Respected publishers don’t want to give him a chance, so his stories only get published into porn magazines. The stories are used to fill up the space between explicit pictures. As porn magazines are widely regarded as cheap, the stories in it have got to be cheap as well. That’s at least how the publishers of the magazines think about it.
Trout’s stories usually criticize the American society. For example: he writes a story about an island in the Pacific Ocean, where all land is owned by white man. There also live black people on the island, but they don’t own anything. The law of the island prescribes that those black people without any property have to pay the white landowners, in order to be allowed to walk over the island. Since the black people can’t pay for that, there is a large problem. But the problem is solved by the white men soon. They create a kind of balloons, filled with helium, which are able to carry persons. All black men are being attached to those balloons, so they can fly over the island, without stepping on the ground, which is owned by the white men. With such a story Trout tries to express the huge differences between white men and other inhabitants to the United States still exists, and is being maintained by the white people, instead of being solved.
Trout also wonders, if mankind has a will of his own. He personally thinks mankind consists of robots, and is an experiment of the ‘Creator of the Universe’ About this, he writes the novel ‘Now it can be told’, which will drive the other main character of this story, Dwayne Hoover, completely mad.
Dwayne Hoover is a successful Pontiac Dealer in Midland City. He owns a lot of real estate in the city, and owns even a part of the local Holiday Inn hotel. Most inhabitants of Midland City do know Hoover as a nice man you can trust. But there’s something wrong with Hoover. Since his wife committed suicide, his body is producing bad chemicals, as Kurt Vonnegut describes it. It means he’s turning into a lunatic. The only thing Dwayne needs to get completely insane is Kilgore Trout’s book ‘Now it can be told’. As a strange coincidence, Hoover meets Trout in the lounge of the Holiday Inn of Midland City. He manages to read Trout’s book and starts hitting random people, because he thinks they’re only machines, and he’s the only human being with thoughts of its own.
Dwayne Hoover is an example of how our modern western society drives people mad. We are being overwhelmed all the time by a massive flood of entertainment, advertisements and insane ideas.
B3: Explanation of the title
The title of this novel ‘Breakfast of Champions comes from a breakfast product of General Mills inc. This is a large breakfast cereals producer in the United States.
Kurt Vonnegut chose this title to express his aversion against the copyright system in the United States of America. He means that even the most small thing, is registered as a trademark, and therefore only available to use when you pay the copyright holder. We will give an example of this ridiculous system: Paris Hilton, an American model, singer and actress, tried to copyright one of her most used expressions in 2004, namely: ‘That’s Hot. Her application for this sentence was accepted by the copyright authorities. It means you have to pay Paris Hilton each time you use the expression ‘that’s hot’ for commercial purposes.
Kurt Vonnegut let the waitress Bonnie MacMahon ironically say, "Breakfast of Champions" each time she serves a customer a Martini in the book. The writer uses this expression without permission, so in this way he shows his aversion.
C. Our opinion about the novel
We think this novel gives a very interesting view upon American society, as it was during the seventies. But we think many aspects of the book are still up to date, if you compare it to today’s American society. The discrimination issue of black people is still going on these days. During the story Vonnegut gives examples of the situation of the African Americans. Legally, the so-called ‘Niggers’ should be equal to European Americans, or ‘Whites’. But Niggers are discriminated on a daily base in the book. For example: the white people of Shepherds Town don’t want to have any Niggers living in their town. They also call a digging machine a ‘The Hundred Nigger Machine’ (as we told you by our second fragment), referring to times of slavery.
We think the book also criticizes the world we’re living in nowadays. People don’t have any aims anymore in their lives. They don’t believe into something, so they’ve lost their way in the modern society. All the apparently random situations in this novel, point to the meaningless lives we are living today. We are exploiting our planet and other countries to the limit to get rich, and the only thing we reach is not knowing what to do with all the money and our lives. Thus, you can regard this book as a modern dystopia.