Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

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What happens in Breakfast of Champions?

Kurt Vonnegut inserts himself into his novel Breakfast of Champions as both the narrator and a character. His protagonist, Kilgore Trout, is also a science-fiction writer, though a largely unsuccessful one whose work has only been published in pornographic magazines. One of Trout's fans, Fred T. Barry, invites him to speak at the Midland Arts Festival.

  • Penniless and near destitute, Trout hitchhikes to New York City, where he hopes to catch a ride to Midland City with a long-haul truck driver. He's mugged shortly after arriving in New York City and is left with nothing but a copy of his novel Now It Can Be Told and a ten dollar bill hidden in his pants.
  • Wealthy Midland City entrepreneur Dwayne Hoover is having a nervous breakdown. His wife killed herself by drinking a bottle of Drano, and the heartbroken Hoover struggles to cope. He suffers from hallucinations and echolalia, which cause him to lash out at his mistress and secretary, Francine Pefko.
  • Trout finally arrives in Midland City, where he takes a room at the Holiday Inn that's hosting the arts festival. He's sitting in the hotel's cocktail lounge when Dwayne arrives. Dwayne attacks his son, the lounge pianist, as well as Trout, Francine, and Vonnegut, who has come to intercept Trout. At the end of the novel, Vonnegut sets Trout and his other characters free. 

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Extended Summary

Published in 1973, Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions is a satiric novel that mixes humor with a depressing worldview. The satiric tone of the novel is established early when Vonnegut explains that the title of his book is actually a registered trademark of General Mills, but that it is “not intended” to disparage their “fine products.” However, the focus of Breakfast of Champions is not only the superficiality of corporate slogans. Vonnegut deconstructs the pursuit of happiness in America, as well as the concepts of liberty and equality. The novel is also deeply personal, and Vonnegut inserts himself into the text. The sprawling narrative even contains felt-pen drawings of things like electric chairs, an anus, and fried chicken. Vonnegut’s tale follows an unconventional plot and introduces characters in a seemingly haphazard way, but it is primarily organized around the stories of Kilgore Trout and Dwayne Hoover.

Trout is an eccentric, unsuccessful, and aging science fiction novelist who knows very little about science. He refers to mirrors as “leaks” that serve as gateways between universes. His work has been widely published, but only in pornographic magazines. However, when he receives a call to go to an arts festival in Midland City, it seems that he has become “fabulously well-to-do.” It turns out that his lone fan, Eliot Rosewater, has recommended Trout to speak at the Midland City Arts Festival. Trout may not be famous, but at least he owns a tuxedo, which is required. Upon reflection, Trout is not inclined to leave his parakeet, Bill, all alone, and he is about to decline the...

(The entire section is 2,713 words.)