Meet the Author
Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1922. After graduating high school, he went to Cornell University; however, he quickly dropped out to enlist in the military. His mother committed suicide during his time in the military. Also during his time in service, he ended up in the Dresden bombing, where he survived by hiding in a meat locker in the slaughterhouse that he was being held captive in by the Germans. This led to the story behind his most famous book - Slaughterhouse-Five. His time serving ended in 1945, and he returned home to marry Jane Cox, who he went on to have three children with. He also adopted his orphaned nephews following his sister's death. During his lifetime, he wrote fourteen novels, the most famous being the aforementioned Slaughterhouse-Five. He went on to divorce Cox and remarry, this time to Jill Krementz. During the divorce, Vonnegut struggled with chronic depression more than ever, as well as his son Mark's mental breakdown. The impact was clear on the book he was writing at the time, Breakfast of Champions, made evident by its dark satirical elements, which one could almost describe as twisted. Tragically, he passed away on April 11th, 2007, at the age of eighty-four due to brain injuries from a fall.
Breakfast of Champions is considered to be in the genre of science fiction.
The book takes place in Midland City, Indiana, over a period of days in the later 1900's. It focuses on two characters who are destined to clash there - haughty, mentally-ill business man Dwayne Hoover, and also mentally-ill, unnoticed writer Kilgore Trout.
This book's theme is an arguable one, as you have two perspectives to look at it from - the author's satirical storytelling, which he uses to make the book more of a narration by himself than an actual novel, and the other side of the coin - the actual story's theme, which is mental illness.
Breakfast of Champions is about the destined meeting of two mentally-ill characters - Kilgore Trout and Dwayne Hoover. In the novel, Hoover acquires one of Trout's novels. Hoover believes that it was actually a letter to him from the Creator of the Universe, and regards human beings as lifeless machines.
The conflict in the story isn't exactly the physical occurrences in the book - it's the mental illnesses leading to the events that happen. For example, after reading Trout's book, Hoover's mental illness causes him to believe it has revealed the truth of life to him - when in reality, it's only Trout's work of science fiction, in which the Creator of the Universe writes a letter to the main character, telling him that everyone around him is a machine. Hoover believes that everyone around him is a machine now, as well.
There isn't particularly a resolve to this conflict either, which speaks volumes about mental illness itself. There isn't really a cure for mental illness; there are medicines, therapy, etc., but you're always stuck with it. The book closes with the characters no better off than before; worse, even.
Dwayne Hoover is a used car salesman, running his own automobile place. He's a very, very well of business man - though he suffers from depression (as a result of his wife committing suicide), echolalia, and incipient insanity, which is simply referred to throughout as his "bad chemicals." He is neither a "good" nor "bad" man; he is just a man like many of us who makes some very bad decisions as a result of very bad things happening to him.
Kilgore Trout is an old, wrinkled, washed-up writer from Bermuda. He's wrote hundreds of books and made nothing from them. His only companion is his parrot Bill, whom he has morbid, dark conversations with. Much like Hoover, his mind is not in the right place at all. He lacks empathy, or compassion of any kind, and has grown resentful of the world. He's quite bitter and seems to care little about his fellow man or the results of his actions.
I find it necessary to include the author here, as most of this book is his commentary, and he does throw himself in at the end with a role to play. A morbid man, he analyzes dark topics and speaks lightly of controversial things as if they are nothing. He's weary and loathing of existence, and reflects this in his comments and opinions.
Mr. Rosewater, who has appeared in several Vonnegut novels, isn't exactly all that important, but he does cause the meeting of the two characters. He's an old alcoholic who is obsessed with Trout's writing, and owns all of his books. Because of this, he gets Trout the invitation to an arts festival which leads him to Midland City.
"Breakfast of Champions"
Breakfast of champions is a phrase used in the book - giving it it's name - referring to a martini.
A mental illness in which a person repeats sounds of words spoken to them.
A being responsible for creating something - or in this case, someone.
An artificial substance that has been prepared to cause a reaction.
An alcoholic beverage garnished with something such as an olive or lemon twist - the "breakfast of champions," if you will.
"This isn't the kind of book where people get what is coming to them at the end." (282)
In the quote, Vonnegut adds to the fact that his book is written in reflection to what life actually is. Life is not fair, and people don't always get what they deserve, no matter what they do. It's often the people who deserve trouble the least that get it.
"And so on."
This line is one that doesn't seem like much standing along, but in the novel, it means everything. Vonnegut repeats it numerous times throughout, typically as the close to long paragraphs. He sets it on its own line, drawing attention to it. Why? Because it's used to depict how casual the world is in regards to disaster. When used by Vonnegut, he likes to throw it in after impacting points, as if to discredit their importance. This symbolizes the fact that, whatever has happened, it means nothing in the grander scheme.
Breakfast of Champions
Breakfast of Champions is a book I would greatly recommend. It's a beautifully written satirical piece, clever in every sense of the word. The story is complex and intricate. Nothing happens that you would expect, and it's all ridiculously over the top. However, if you're sensitive towards mature content, it's likely not a book for you.