Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions Summary and Analysis of Chapters 13-14


Harry LeSabre has been "destroyed by Dwayne." Dwayne had reacted to Harry's Hawaiian costume as if he could not see it, because he had forgotten it was Hawaiian week and just thought it was his insanity acting up. But Harry took this reaction to mean that Dwayne knew he was a transvestite, and that he was fired because of it. Dwayne is oblivious to the effect he has had on Harry.

Francine tells Dwayne that his twin, younger step-brothers, Lyle and Kyle Hoover, are waiting for him in the inner office. They own the Sacred Miracle Cave, a tourist trap, along with Dwayne. The underground stream that runs through the Sacred Miracle Cave was polluted by industrial waste "which formed bubbles as big as ping-pong balls," that were taking over the attraction by engulfing it. The twins tell Dwayne that they had done an experiment in which they shot the bubbles, and they let loose a "stink you wouldn't believe-" they smelled like athlete's foot.

The Sacred Miracle cave is described as having been discovered in 1937 by Dwayne Hoover. The farm on which they discovered it was started by Josephus Hoobler, and ex-slave, and came to be owned by Dwayne's stepfather. It was called Bluebird Farm, but Dwayne's stepfather called it "...a God damn Nigger farm," and "ripped a Nigger sign off the Nigger mailbox, and he threw it into a ditch." The sign read, "Bluebird Farm."

In Chapter 14, Kilgore Trout has reached West Virginia, whose surface "had been demolished by men and machinery and explosives in order to make it yield up its coal. The coal was mostly gone now." Trout wonders aloud what people do for fun in West Virginia, and the driver of the Pyramid truck answers that he doesn't know, but one night he observed people at a roller rink.

Next, we as readers are taken on a tour of the images that pop up in Trout's head, through Vonnegut's use of stream of consciousness. But rather than a stream of Trout's consciousness, it is a stream of the speaker's consciousness, blending the division between the universe of the speaker and that of his characters. Trout thinks about how quickly all the coal energy of West Virginia had been used up by white men, and how it had powered old-fashioned steamboats and choo-choo trains. There is a picture of what their whistles looked like. They made a sound like "mating or dying dinosaurs." There is a picture of a dinosaur, and of a pea, which is equal to the size of both of a dinosaur's brains combined. Trout thinks that maybe the whistles' cries went into outer space along with the heat energy they produced, but he is incorrect, the speaker note, since "the atmosphere of Earth relative to the planet wasn't even as thick as the skin of an apple." There is a picture of an apple. The speaker then notes that the driver was a "big eater," especially of hamburgers. There is a picture of a cow, since that is the animal of which hamburgers are made. Then there is a picture of the "finished product," a hamburger.

At this point, the reader is to assume that the driver and Trout have arrived at a burger joint. Trout orders a cup of coffee and starts a conversation with a very old miner on a stool next to him. The old miner used to work for Rosewater Coal and Iron Company, owned by Eliot Rosewater's family.

When they're back on the road, the driver asks why on earth Trout is going to Midland City, calling it "the asshole of the Universe." Trout lies and says his sister is sick. The driver has serendipitously read The Barring-gaffner of Bagnialto or This Year's Masterpiece, by Kilgore Trout. This happened because he had been jailed for speeding in nearby Libertyville. The main industry there was making new paper out of old magazines and newspapers and books, and since the unloading process was sloppy, bits and pieces of literature were flying all over town. They used books for toilet paper in jail, and the driver happened to read the toilet paper that was The Barring-gaffner of Bagnialto, or This Year's Masterpiece.

The driver points out that all the mailboxes in the area have the name "Hoobler" on them. This is, incidentally, the last name of Wayne Hoobler, the ex-convict. It is revealed that Dwayne Hoover's stepparents had originally been named Hoobler, but when they moved to Midland City, they had their name legally changed so it wouldn't be the same as all the black people name Hoobler.


The pollution bubbles destroying Sacred Miracle Cave demonstrate the theme of the destruction of the planet by drawing attention to humans' destruction of themselves. Sacred Miracle Cave is a man-made tourist trap, and it too is subject to destruction. The fact that the pollution bubbles smell like athlete's foot is significant because it draws a connection to another symbol associated with the theme of pollution: the extinct Ern in Bermuda. The Ern became extinct because it was attacked by the athlete's foot virus.

The name of the farm that Dwayne's stepfather bought, "Bluebird Farm," is important, since it includes both the color blue (most notably of the phrase, "Goodbye, Blue Monday") as well as the word bird, which we have seen as a symbol of entrapment versus freedom. The ex-slave who founded the farm named it after this symbol, the bird, but lost his farm in the Great Depression and it eventually came to be owned by someone who hated his race. Even though Josephus Hoobler had been freed as a slave, his race continued to hinder his success.

The description of West Virginia in the beginning of Chapter 14 further references the theme of the destruction of the planet. West Virginia is a symbol of the total dessication of the land - it is "collapsing into all the holes which had been dug into it." It represents the future of the whole Earth, in accordance with the them of its destruction. The description the truck driver gives of the West Virginians he observed in the roller rink likens humans to machinery: "They went around and around. Nobody smiled. They just went around and around." Vonnegut even puts these dismal humans on wheels, to reinforce their connection to the machinery that has destroyed their state.

The interaction that Trout has with the old miner in Chapter 14 links the theme of the destruction of the planet to the theme of ownership and disenfranchisement of Americans. When Trout asks what it's like to work for such a destructive industry, the old miner answers that he's too tired to care. He becomes a symbol of the working class in America, too tired to care about their work or its impact. The emotional state of Americans is linked to the theme of ownership, since the reason the old miner doesn't care is that it "don't matter if you care, if you don't own what you care about." The old miner used to work for Rosewater Coal and Iron Company, owned by Eliot Rosewater's family.

The Barring-gaffner of Bagnialto, or This Year's Masterpiece, the book of Trout's that the driver happens to have read, is an allegory of the work of Rabo Karabekian. The book takes place on the planet Bagnialto, and it is told from the point of view of a cobbler named Gooz. On the planet Bagnialto, citizens submit works of art to a government official called a "Barring-gaffner," who spins a wheel to randomly decide cash values for the art. Gooz submits the only picture he's ever painted, of his cat, and it randomly gets assigned the worth of one billion dollars. The story ends with the discovery that the wheel was rigged, and the barring-gaffer's subsequent suicide. This story is an allegory that can be aligned with the painting of Rabo Karabekin, who will be introduced later. This story reflects Karabekian's painting, which was sold to Midland City for $50,000. This is resented by most citizens, who consider it to be a worthless piece of art. The Barring-gaffner of Bagnialto, or This Year's Masterpiece comments upon the arbitrary values assigned to "masterpieces" like Karabekian's.