The characters in Breakfast of Champions are puppets, and Vonnegut makes sure that his reader is aware of their artificiality. Like Robbe-Grillet, Vonnegut believes that the novel of character is dead, so Breakfast of Champions is filled with cartoon figures who can be adequately described with a single identifying phrase, but Vonnegut also fears that actual human beings are little more than robots leading determined existences. This depressing view of character is tempered in the novel by the minimalist painter Rabo Karabekian. In defense of his abstract painting The Temptation of Saint Anthony, Karabekian passionately argues that "our awareness is all that is alive and maybe sacred in any of us. Everything else about us is dead machinery."
In God Bless You Mr. Rosewater (1965), Kilgore Trout was the pathetic science fiction hack, a vision of what Vonnegut had feared he might become. In Breakfast of Champions, he is a visionary who accepts the invitation to appear at the Midland City Arts Festival in order to confront Americans' romantic notions of art with his own experience of frustration and failure.
Dwayne Hoover, the "hero of this book" is a businessman whose wife has killed herself with Drano, whose lover is scarred by the death of her husband in Vietnam, and whose son is a homosexual. Until he reads Trout's "explanation," Hoover, despite having followed the path of success, leads a life of mystifying...
(The entire section is 235 words.)