Grain of Hope in Breakfast of Champions
“I think I am trying to clear my head of all the junk in there...the flags...I’m throwing out characters from my other books too. I’m not going to put on any more puppet shows.”
This proud exclamation is made in the introduction of Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. It caught my attention and drew me to continue reading. The book continues to take the reader on a bizarre journey through the human mind. Our mental trip is made easier through Vonnegut’s childlike “artwork,” which mostly consists of underwear, guns, cows, and other odds and ends. Finishing the introduction I was instantly fed a synapse of the plot.
The story follows the mental decline of a rich Pontiac dealer, Dwayne Hoover, and the rise of an unknown science fiction writer, Kilgore Trout, who is to become one of the most beloved and respected human beings in history. All this is revealed on the first page. In my closed mind, I figured that I already knew the plot, so there was no point in continuing. On a whim, I flipped through the book and saw the picture of a gravestone. On the gravestone was written, “Not even the Creator of the universe knew what the man was going to say next-perhaps the man was a better universe in its infancy.” For some reason this rather simple line hooked me and so I went back to page one and decided to read a bit more. To be honest, I’m glad I did.
As soon as I finished the first chapter, I was really hooked. It was one of the few novels I had ever read straight through from beginning to end in one all-night sitting. I’ll admit-so far this essay has been more of a narrative telling of my exploits with this novel, but I felt it necessary to explain a little about my initial feelings.
This book is pregnant with symbols. Many of the mechanics of the book (including the chapters) became symbols in Vonnegut’s hands. The first chapter goes into American culture in depth. It explains that in our country color means everything. “The sea pirates were white. The people who were already on the continent, who were already living full and imaginative lives, were copper-colored. When slavery was introduced, the slaves were black.