Breakfast of Champions Themes

  • Vonnegut introduces the theme of humans as machines in the Preface of Breakfast of Champions, likening his characters to machines that he, as narrator and author, can control. This theme is later reinforced by Dwayne's belief that he's the only person in the world who isn't a robot.
  • Vonnegut was preoccupied with the theme of communication. Perhaps the best example of this is Zog, a character in one of Trout's stories, who communicates by farting and tap dancing. Zog's attempts to communicate are misunderstood, and he's eventually killed by uncomprehending humans.
  • Mental health is an important theme in Breakfast of Champions. Dwayne's deteriorating mental health stems from his grief over the death of his wife and is augmented by a conversation he has with Kilgore Trout, who proclaims, "Ideas or the lack of them can cause disease!"

Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

One important theme explored in Breakfast of Champions is the proper role of the artist, a particularly difficult question in a society so adept at transforming art into commodity and so immersed in the consoling fantasies supplied by Washington, Wall Street, and Hollywood. By writing a self-conscious, antinovel Vonnegut hopes to prevent his readers from trying to "live like people invented in story books." It is a reworking of a favorite Vonnegut theme, explicitly stated in the preface that was added to the 1966 reissue of Mother Night: "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."

In Breakfast of Champions, Dwayne Hoover, the man of property, is set against Kilgore Trout, the man of vision, and at the center of their confrontation is the question of free will. Near the end of Breakfast of Champions Hoover reads Trout's Now It Can Be Told, which tells him that he is the only creature in the universe with free will and that other people are only robots. This message seems to confirm the alienation Hoover has experienced and encourages a psychotic binge of violence that leaves both of the principal characters physically and spiritually damaged.

Yet in Breakfast of Champions there is some hope for melioration. Although experiential evidence indicates that life is mechanistic, intuition suggests, in the words of the minimalist painter Rabo Karbekian, that there is an...

(The entire section is 431 words.)