You have to hand it to Kurt Vonnegut Jr. In his eighth novel, "Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday," he performs considerable complex magic. He makes pornography seem like any old plumbing, violence like lovemaking, innocence like evil, and guilt like child's play. He wheels out all the latest fashionable complaints about America--her racism, her gift for destroying language, her technological greed and selfishness--and makes them seem fresh, funny, outrageous, hateful, and lovable, all at the same time. He draws pictures, for God's sake--simple, rough, yet surprisingly seductive sketches of everything from Volkswagens to electric chairs. He weaves into his plot a dozen or so glorious synopses of Vonnegut stories one almost wishes were fleshed out into whole books. He very nearly levitates. Yet--astonishingly--this fiction is also a factual announcement of his intention to give up fiction. And what mars the book is that one believes the fiction, but not the facts.
Up to a certain point, it is easy to accept what is going on in this "tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast." It's amusing and charming, yet oddly frightening, to watch Kilgore Trout--the undiscovered science-fiction writer who has kept popping up in Mr. Vonnegut's previous works--hitchhiking across America to a Festival of the Arts in Midland City, where he has been invited through the lone intervention of that benign-evil millionaire, Eliot Rosewater.
Gentle Satirical Thrusts
It's quite marvelous the way Trout contemplates the word PYRAMID written in giant letters on the side of a trailer-truck he is riding in, and then wonders, "Why would anybody in the business of high-speed transportation name his business and his trucks after buildings which haven't moved an eighth of an inch since Christ was born?" And gets the answer from the truck's driver: "He [the boss] liked the sound of it." Which leads Trout to imagine a story "about a planet where the language kept turning into pure music, because the creatures there were so enchanted with the sounds. . . . So leaders in government and commerce, in order to function, had to invent new and much uglier vocabularies and sentence structures all the time, which would resist being transmuted to music."
With such graceful, gentle satirical thrusts, Mr. Vonnegut takes care of most of what is absurd and downright evil in American civilization--everything from Vietnam to sex, from war to massage parlors.
And it's charming, yet oddly terrifying--charming terror, terrifying charm may well be Mr. Vonnegut's exclusive trademark by now--to see Dwayne Hoover, the automobile dealer who owns much of Midland city, going inexorably insane because of the bad chemicals in his system. For Dwayne Hoover's incipient insanity--which will break out when Hoover reads a story by Kilgore Trout (a message from the Creator of the Universe telling the reader that he alone has free will among a race of robots)--enables Mr. Vonnegut to skewer everything that is absurd and evil in the rest of civilization--from Nazis to paranoia, from genocide to people bogged down in their various bad chemistries. As we all ought to know by now, there are few writers around with Mr. Vonnegut's gift for assuming the guise of deadpan and then spotlighting without malice or bitterness the most hideous aspect of the human species.
A Certain Coyness
But I began worrying after a while about certain narrative charms that Vonnegut keeps plying. After several repetitions, I got bothered by his repeated use of the exhortation to "Listen" with which he begins so many of his paragraphs, as well as the three little words "And so on" with which he concludes some of his most appalling descriptions. Even those dumb, lovable drawings began to pall after a time. I think I understand what he is getting at--that fictional art simply won't serve an more as he approaches middle age and a deeper insight to his own motives for writing (not to mention the impotence of art to purge the earth of evil); and that the persona who is creating "Breakfast of Champions" is trying to get a last desperate grip on the most simple rudiments of story-telling. But there is a certain coyness in this desperation, especially since it is surrounded by so much polish and inventiveness.Continue reading the main story
Essay on An Analysis of Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions
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An Analysis of Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions
Kilgore Trout is a struggling novelist that can only get his novels published in porn magazines. Dwayne Hoover is a fabulously well-to-do car salesman that is on the brink of insanity. They only meet once in their lives, but the entire novel, Breakfast of Champions (1973), is based on this one meeting. The meeting is brief, but that is all the author, Kurt Vonnegut, needs to express his message. In fact, it is quite crucial that the meeting starts and ends almost instantly. It is the meeting between sanity and insanity. Kilgore Trout is simply the novelist that Vonnegut was when he was younger. Dwayne Hoover is the older, insane man that Vonnegut has turned in to. The meeting between…show more content…
The chemicals haunt him daily and change his life drastically. He is also one of the richest men in Midland City and is widely respected. That all changes once he encounters Kilgore Trout. Trout drives him incredibly insane with one novel. This novel is simply about whoever is reading it. The point of the novel is to try to convince the reader that they are the only person on Earth with free will. Everybody else is robots that are testing you so the creator of the universe can see how you will react. Dwayne Hoover takes this to heart.
Dwayne Hoover and Kilgore Trout are the same age. They both have pets that they adore. Early in both of their lives, their mothers committed suicide. Kilgore seems to know a heck of a lot about cars as he takes his journey to Midland City. He can name the make and year of every car that he sees. For example, he gazed down into a gully over a broken guardrail and saw a car. Immediately he could recognize the car as a, "1968 Cadillac El Dorado"(pg 120). This happens many more times throughout the novel. He obviously has some sort of love for cars, as does the car salesman, Dwayne Hoover.
They are so much alike in so many ways. The reader can't help but ask himself, "Could they be the same person?" Kurt Vonnegut could simply be portraying himself through these characters. His mother also committed suicide when he was young. Kilgore Trout is the younger, sane