Kurt Vonnegut\'s Portrayal of Society in Breakfast of Champion


Thesis: In Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut portrays a prepackaged, robotic society, and

an American culture plagued with despair, greed, and apathy.

I. Introduction

II. Social problems

A. Racism

B. Commercialism and materialism

C. Violence

D. Lack of culture

E. Greed

III. Destruction of America

A. Pollution

B. Destruction for wealth

IV. Conclusion

Vonnegut\'s portrayal of society in Breakfast of Champions

"The country Vonnegut takes us through has been plasticized, prepackaged, and

brainwashed beyond redemption. The poor are sinking into oblivion and the rich are choking

on the fruits of their wealth." This quote is a very adequate discription of the literary journey

through the current scene of America. At one point or another, Vonnegut discusses nearly

every social, political, or cultural problem afflicting America. Racism, violence, greed, and

commercialism are a few among the many problems prevalent in this country ("Briefly"

146). Vonnegut\'s novel is an exhibit of the flaws of a robotic, self-destructive society (Allen

107). In Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut portrays a prefabricated, unfeeling society

and an American culture plagued with despair, greed, and apathy.

The issue of society\'s flaws is a major concern of Breakfast of Champions. Such

problems arise and are dealt with as failure to communicate, ecological destruction, a

contempt for art, and the government\'s inattention to important problems (Merrill 157). The

experiences and trials of Kilgore Trout, an unknown science fiction writer from New York,

and Dwayne Hoover, a Pontiac dealer from Indiana, show the suffering and unintelligibility

of daily living (Giannone 107).

Dwayne Hoover suffers greatly despite his apparent wealth and prosperity, being

burdened with the problems of himself and his family (Merrill 158). Hoover\'s mother killed

herself by drinking Drano (130), and his son is a homosexual (131). Although Dwayne owns

a Pontiac Dealership, a fast food restaurant, a Holiday Inn, and a large part of the most

successful corporation in all of Midland City, he is mentally disturbed and suffering from

psycological disillusion (84).

Kilgore Trout, poor and humbled by a troublesome life, is a struggling science fiction

writer with only one fan (17). His books, mostly metaphorically representing American

society, are rarely published. The few published works of Trout\'s appear in unsavory

magazines and are changed and surrounded with pornographic pictures and suggestions (19).

Sometimes he is not even given credit for writing his material. He encounters several of the

problems in today\'s society on a trip to Midland City\'s arts festival (48). Trout goes to the

arts festival, not as a mentor of budding young writers, or a representation of the

succuessful writing guild, but as a surveyor and an example of the writing community that

has failed miserably in the search for popularity and reverence.

One of the most severe and common social problems in America is racism. Vonnegut

criticizes the glorification of European colonization of North America. He describes how

children are taught that 1492 is a sacred year in which this continent was discovered by

human beings. Actually, people were already living here, 1492 is simply the year that

foreigners began to cheat, rob, and kill them (10). The natives were perfectly happy with the

way things were and so was the land. The natives did not spoil or pollute the beautiful land

that had been given to them by their creator, and murder the lesser animals for sport, for the

thrill of the hunt. They merely lived off the land being kind to all things.

"The sea pirates were white. The people who were already on the continent were

copper-colored. When slavery was introduced onto the continent, the slaves were black.

Color was everything" (11). Vonnegut\'s basic description of early America is sadly true.

The newcoming Europeans thought that they were a superior race of beings, and that they

had the right to enslave others and force them to do their bidding or be punished. Even after

slavery was eliminated, whites looked down on other races, referring to them as unfeeling,

ignorant, labor machines (11).

According to Vonnegut, the United States is the core of a materialistic race of beings.

Efficiency is rewarded more than honesty or integrity by a culture with a tendency to accept

commercialized versions of reality. Wall Street and Hollywood have replaced family and