Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions Summary and Analysis of Chapters 23-24


Chapter 23 begins with Dwayne still reading Now It Can Be Told. He reads the following passage:

"You are surrounded by loving machines, hating machines, greedy machines, unselfish machines, brave machines, cowardly machines, truthful machines, lying machines, funny machines, solemn machines," he read. "Their only purpose is to stir you up in every conceivable way, so the Creator of the Universe can watch your reactions. They can no more feel or reason than grandfather clocks."

The following paragraph that Dwayne reads references two other very important themes: the destruction of the planet and its overpopulation:

"The Creator of the Universe would now like to apologize not only for the capricious, jostling companionship he provided during the tes, but for the trashy, stinking condition of the planet itself. The Creator programmed robots to abuse it for millions of years, so it would be a poisonous, festering cheese when you got here. Also, He made sure it would be desperately crowded by programming robots, regardless of their living conditions, to crave sexual intercourse and adore infants more than almost anything."

Mary Alice Miller walks through the cocktail lounge to get to the lobby to get a crown and scepter for her performance that night at the arts festival. Abe Cohen notices her and says out loud, "Pure tuna fish!" Kilgore Trout is unable to make sense of that exclamation. Meanwhile, his plastic-coated feet are getting very hot. Dwayne continues reading about how all other humans are robots "have committed every possible atrocity and every possible kindness unfeelingly, automatically, inevitably, to get a reaction from Y-O-U." The book continues to tell him about how his parents were machines of all types.

Now Dwayne gets up and walks over to the bar, "stiff" because of his "awe of his own strength and righteousness." He decides to "respond to his new understanding of life with finesse, for an audience of two - himself and his Creator." This phrasing is interesting, because his Creator is sitting right there - the narrator. So technically, Dwayne could also attack him, as a character within his own story. But instead he approaches Bunny, who responds by meditating and seeing the "phosphorescent scarf" float by in his mind, reading the word "Cool." Dwayne attacks his son, calling him a "God damn cock-sucking machine!" This diction choice once again draws attention to the theme of humans as machines. He slams Bunny's head over and over on the piano keys, and Bunny doesn't resist.

When Rabo Karabekian, Beatrice Keedsler, and Bonnie MacMahon pull him off his son, Dwayne punches Beatrice Keedsler in the jaw, and punches Bonnie MacMahon in the belly. He shouts, "All you robots want to know why my wife at Drano? I'll tell you why: She was that kind of machine!" This climactic scene really enforces the narrator's understanding of all humans as machines, through the character of Dwayne. Dwayne runs outside, where Mary Alice Miller's father, Don Miller, is waiting for her in the car. He is lying with his seat back flat, staring at the ceiling and trying to learn French on audio tape.

Dwayne calls "for Niggers to come talk to him," but when none come, he thinks that the Creator of the Universe has made them all hide as a joke. As the sun goes down, he calls out, "Olly-olly-ox-in-freeeeeeeeeee." Wayne Hoobler responds, though he has never played hide and seek in his life. He stands at parade rest, "ready for anything, and wouldn't mind death." Dwayne begins talking to him about all the black people he's ever known, and about his wife and son. Then Dwayne attempts to hit Wayne, but Wayne is extremely good at ducking; Dwayne calls him "African dodger!" Thinking that he is involved in a game of African dodger (in which a black man would stick his head through a hole at a carnival booth, while people paid to through baseballs at his head and won a prize if they hit him), Dwayne continues to try to attack Wayne. Wayne vaults up onto the bed of a truck, and Dwayne decides not to follow him up, saying, "You're too good for me." Then he continues talking to Wayne, now about human slavery. He includes not only black slaves, but coal miners and factory workers as well.

Wayne Hoobler's mouth falls open as he sees the runway lights of the nearby airport light up. To him, they look like his dream come true: they look like his childish idea of "Fairy Land."

In Chapter 24, Dwayne Hoover has injured so many people that The Martha Simmons Memorial Mobile Disaster Unit needs to be used, a special ambulance that is a full-sized transcontinental bus. It is named after the wife of Newbolt Simmons, who died of rabies after being bitten by a bat she was trying to save. Newbolt Simmons and Dwayne were "drawn together for a while," because their wifes had died strange deaths within a month of each other. Their friendship petered out, but they still exchanged Christmas cards (drawings are provided of each card).

The narrator tells us that his psychiatrist is also named Martha. He decides that rather than the American novelist Thomas Wolfe's idea of keeping the search for a father in mind as a unifying idea in writing, heroes and heroines ought to be searching for mothers instead. He draws attention to how both Dwayne Hoover and Wayne Hoobler are motherless. We learn how Eliot Rosewater killed his mother accidentally in a boating accident. The pilot of his plane, Colonel Looseleaf Harper, causes the runway of the Will Fairchild Memorial Airport to light up, looking like Fairyland to Wayne Hoobler. The narrator reminds us of his role as Creator of the Universe, at least of the universe of the characters, by pointing out, "I could have killed him, and his pilot, too, but I let them live on. So their plane touched down uneventfully."

Back on Martha the disaster vehicle, Cyprian Ukwende and Khashdrahr Miasma are the physicians in charge. Eddie Key is the name of the driver, and is the direct descendant of Francis Scott Key, who wrote the National Anthem. Eddie is black, and can name more than six hundred of his ancestors, who are Africans, Indians and white men. His ancestors owned "Bluebird Farm," which was the "Nigger Farm" where Dwayne Hoover's stepfather discovered Sacred Miracle Cave. As he drives the vehicle, "he had the feeling that he himself was a vehicle, and that his eyes were windshields through which his progenitors could look, if they wished to."

Dwayne is boarded into Martha, believing his is on the virgin planet of Now It Can Be Told. He believes that he is The Man of the story, yelling out phrases of his own free will, which the Creator of the Universe cannot guess. He yells, "Goodbye, Blue Monday!" As Kilgore Trout climbs into Martha, we learn that he had jumped Dwayne from behind when Dwayne dragged Francine Pefko out onto the asphalt to give her a beating in public. He had broken her jaw and three ribs inside the office. Now she is unconscious and the most seriously injured victim. When Trout grabbed Dwayne from behind, somehow his right ring finger slipped into Dwayne's mouth, and Dwayne bit it off from the topmost joint. He spat it into Sugar Creek.

Wayne Hoobler remained unhurt, and is now among the cars on the Pontiac lot, finding the bracelet the narrator had tossed there for him. But the narrator himself is injured in the scuffle: "I came out of the riot with a broken watch crystal and what turned out later to be a broken toe. Somebody jumped backwards to get out of Dwayne's way. He broke my watch crystal, even though I had created him, and he broke my toe." The only person whom Dwayne hurt who deserved it was Don Breedlove. He had been repairing a defective gas oven in the kitchen of the new Holiday Inn. Dwayne had once sold Breedlove a Pontiac Ventura, and Breedlove had written "This Car is a Lemon!" all over it. Dwayne offers Breedlove his hand, and they shake; while Breedlove is led to believe Dwayne is making a motion of friendship, Dwayne boxes him in the ear, causing him to go deaf.

Cyprian Ukwende tries to remove Dwayne Hoover's shoes, but they are plasticized because he has waded across Sugar Creek. He asks Dr. Khashdrahr Miasma to get some shears so he can cut them off, but Miasma refuses, and is altogether unhelpful.

The narrator now says, "I could go on and on with the intimate details about the various lives of people on the super-ambulance, but what good is more information?" Earlier he told us that he wants to write about life, since writing fictitious novels negatively affects real people who try to live their lives like characters in a story book. However, now he relates to another of Kilgore Trout's novels, The Pan-Galactic Memory Bank, in which the hero gets a realistic novel out of a library, reads about sixty pages of it, then takes it back saying, "I already know about human beings."

Dwayne Hoover momentarily regains sanity, and speaks to Cyprian Ukwende about opening a health club in Midland City. But the narrator tells us his fortune, which is that "He wasn't going to open anything ever again." His victims will sue him for all he is worth, and he will become "one more withered balloon of an old man on Midland City's Skid Row." This points out the idea that all humans are characters of equal weight; although this whole story has been written about the most catastrophic point in Dwayne Hoover's life, to passersby later he will just be a random homeless man.


The passage that Dwayne reads from Now It Can Be Told in the beginning of Chapter 23 sums up the theme of humans as machines and what we know from foreshadowing is the idea that drives him over the brink of insanity. As Dwayne rants to Wayne Hoobler in the parking lot, he acknowledges that "white robots were just like black robots, essentially, in that they were programmed to be whatever they were, to do whatever they did." This conclusion Dwayne reaches in his madness reconciles the idea of humans as machines with the theme of race. Thinking of humans as machines allows them all to be equal, regardless of race. Dwayne concludes that nothing is really a shame, since "Why should I care what happens to machines?" This rationale could be used to justify any type of injustice, as it already has for Dwayne: he is attacking people on his rampage because he doesn't believe they can feel anything.

In Chapter 24, the narrator seems to act as a reader of his own story, pointing out the theme of motherlessness. The narrator's pointing out his own themes demonstrates Vonnegut's destruction of barriers between universes; the narrator is a character in his created universe, but also comments on themes that permeate it. The narrator's injury in Dwayne's rampage is significant because it totally defies the laws of separate universes; we already saw the narrator observe his characters through "leaks," and even interact with them, but now he is physically injured during the time he spends in their universe.

The character of Eddie Key is extremely instrumental in tying the theme of race up to the theme of America inextricably here, since Eddie is black, and can name more than six hundred of his ancestors, who are Africans, Indians and white men. His ancestors owned "Bluebird Farm," which was the "Nigger Farm" where Dwayne Hoover's stepfather discovered Sacred Miracle Cave. It is significant that Eddie Key is driving the ambulance with all the victims of Dwayne's insanity inside. Because of his mixed ancestry, he represents a cross section of America, and as he drives the vehicle, "he had the feeling that he himself was a vehicle, and that his eyes were windshields through which his progenitors could look, if they wished to." Since Eddie Key envisions himself as a machine, specifically a car, we make the connection that all Americans are machines; this connection is emphasized when "Eddie focused his eyes on an American flag which was stuck to the windshield. He said this very quietly: 'Still wavin', man.'" This line is a beacon of hope; perhaps the only clear one in the whole story. Despite all the destruction in the very vehicle he is driving, Eddie Key feels himself to be a vehicle through which history continues to be made, building upon itself through generations of Americans.

"Goodbye, Blue Monday!" returns in its final incarnation as Dwayne is loaded into Martha. He believes that he is The Man of the story, yelling out phrases of his own free will, which the Creator of the Universe cannot guess. He yells, "Goodbye, Blue Monday!" The return of this phrase implies something important about themes throughout this story. After all the meanings suggested and heaped upon this phrase throughout the story, as it turns out, it is entirely random. Dwayne yells it because of his free will, but it also represents his insanity.

It is significant also that Dwayne spat Trout's severed finger into Sugar Creek. Thus Sugar Creek has become more polluted with human waste; in this case, a severed body part. As Trout walked along the Interstate on his way to Midland City, he had observed an accident in which milk and blood were pouring into Sugar Creek; now his finger joins them in its pollution. This draws attention to the theme of the destruction of the Earth; humans' insanity and destruction of themselves, in this case that of Dwayne Hoover, but also in the case of the automobile accident, is causing it.