Title: Breakfast of Champions
Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Publisher: Dell Publishing
Page Count: 303
Publication Date: 1999
Category/Genre: Fiction, Classics, Science Fiction, Humor, Literature
Good Reads Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.07)
In Breakfast of Champions, one of Kurt Vonnegut’s most beloved characters, the aging writer Kilgore Trout, finds to his horror that a Midwest car dealer is taking his fiction as truth. What follows is murderously funny satire, as Vonnegut looks at war, sex, racism, success, politics, and pollution in America and reminds us how to see the truth.
*Questions are a mix from Rabbit Hole Blogger, the publisher, research and discussions with others. Questions may contain spoilers.
- What do you think about Vonnegut’s style? The drawings, page breaks and self-referential moments are a radical departure from the standard novel. Do they add to the story or detract from it?
- One theme of Breakfast of Champions is humans as machines. How are people like machines? What are the possible results of such a worldview?
- The narrator points out the racist views of certain characters, recounts instances of violence against women, and shows derogatory views of transvestite and gay characters. How are African Americans depicted? Women? Are their concerns given weight in the context of the narrative?
- How is advertising used in the story? There are many instances of written advertisements (including the names of the trucks in which Kilgore Trout rides to Midland City) and radio advertisements and the title itself is the slogan of a popular cereal. How do various characters react to the advertisements? What do
the advertisements say about the power of the written and spoken word?
- Discuss the significance of the phrase “Goodbye, Blue Monday,” the alternate title of the book, as well as the motto of the Robo-Magic company which Dwayne Hoover was able to sell in order to buy the Pontiac agency.
- How is an apple used as a symbol? There are two drawings of an apple: one is when the narrator discusses how the atmosphere of the Earth is as thin as the skin of an apple, and the other is after the narrator characterizes time as “a serpent which eats its tail” and represents the apple offered to Eve by the serpent. When the narrator accosts Trout in the Epilogue, Trout sees an apple in the narrator’s hand.
- What drives Dwayne Hoover insane? We are told that he has a chemical imbalance and that it is exacerbated by reading Kilgore Trout’s novel Now It Can Be Told, but are there other causes?
- When Kilgore Trout realized the ideas in his book have helped drive Dwayne Hoover insane, he says, “Ideas of the lack of them can cause disease!” Are ideas dangerous? How is creativity treated in regard to the population as a whole and the artists in town for the festival?
- What is the significance of Rabo Karabekian’s painting The Temptation of Saint Anthony? The townspeople initially resent it and think its $50,000 price tag is ridiculous, but he says it “shows everything about life which truly matters, with nothing left out” and represents awareness. Do you believe his explanation? Why are the townspeople so quick to embrace the artwork after hearing what it represents?
- In describing his painting, Karabekian says all humans are bands of unwavering light. How does this view of humanity differ from or complement the idea of humans as machines? How is it integrated into the story?
- Does the narrator’s obsession with human anatomy complement or contradict the theme of humans as machines? Why does he repeat such measurements?
- What is the narrator’s opinion of America? How does he describe its domestic and foreign policies? What does he think of the government and citizens?
- What is the relationship between the narrator and Vonnegut himself? To what extent does the narrator represents Vonnegut himself, and to what extent does Vonnegut makes him into a character?