Breakfast of Champions: Science Fiction as Social Commentary
Vonnegut’s symbolic and satirical representation of humans as robots in his novel: Breakfast of Champions is representative of the authors interpretation of world events and conflicting nature of human beings - Breakfast of Champions: Science Fiction as Social Commentary introduction. The renowned author often hits on significant and worrisome themes such as destruction of the planet and overpopulation. His unique and unparallel style includes outrageous and often unrealistic chain of event that are obviously symbolic and relevant to the story as well as the author’s attitude on a particular subject matter.
For instance in describing when Kilgore Trout writes his stories, he does not save them or make more copies, instead sends them to magazine publishers, mainly those of ‘adult’ content, who publish his stories often changing their titles in the process. This is symbolic of his attitude on writers who don’t bother to write in order to present stories that exclusively are those which they wanted to write about, but instead write whatever will get them published, not paying attention to the impact such selfishness has with it.
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I will argue that Kurt Vonnegut’s specific style of writing, mainly the pattern and trends we see throughout in the novel: Breakfast of Champions is a purposeful critique of world events and the effect of science fiction have on the reader as to make the ordinary seen strange in order to have the reader rethink his or her on already well ground and seemingly universal beliefs. At first the effect of describing ordinary things with overly specific details, usually has the effect of utter annoyance of the reader.
The narrator from the beginning has a knack of describing what seem to be like completely ordinary things with too much detail and even adds illustrations to what he describes. This is certainly different in comparison to other novels, especially since most novels have much longer descriptions of setting they describe and make story seem real. Breakfast of Champions is not. It seems completely bizarre, which on itself has a message of its own. We are introduced into the story as outsiders almost, as if we did not belong to the planet, as if we were not human.
This kind of insight creates a whole different kind of attitude on the events that are happening within. Science fiction, theoretically attempts to do just that. To make the ordinary seem strange, in order to provide critique to a specific subject matter in order to let the reader rethink his or her own attitude on the matter at hand. Certainly this is that case here as well. Having this ‘third party’ perspective allows for us to rethink our entire attitudes on relevant social and secular issues dominating at the time. For instance such a moment that sticks out is the description of women’s underwear. And the madness about wide-open beavers was extended to underpants when Dwayne and Trout and I were boys. Girls concealed their underpants at all costs, and boys tried to see their underpants at all coasts” (Vonnegut, 27). Below the paragraph is a picture of the very underpants he spoke of that portrays, literary, a critique of how insignificant and unworthy the massive social outbursts on debates were on nude or nearly nude depictions of women in popular magazines when compared to other issues that plagued the world.
One passage sticks out in particular when it comes to issues that Vonnegut considers relevant: “The Creator of the Universe would 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 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” (Vonnegut, 168).
Certainly plenty can be derived from this passage. We can tell there is sarcasm in the voice of the narrator, with the apology of the creator, that it was He who programmed the robots as such and they are to blame for the worsening condition of the planet. We know that none of us are robots, and we have ourselves entirely to blame for our own actions and no greater power, or God can be blamed for such things. Certainly the entire novel has this affect: of creating satirical situations and giving obviously flawed explanations, as to provide commentary in this ct because we see plainly the wrongness of such a possibility. These are the issues Vonnegut cares about: wars, destruction of the planet, and overpopulation in the relation of human starvation and unequal distribution of natural resources. Less relevant, to him, are socially or moralistic areas of debate. There is also a critique to narcissism and people’s general sense of pride and selfishness. Dwayne Hoover is a prime example. After reading the story by Kilgore Trout he decides that all humans are actually robots and decides to be president of the United States.
This can be seen as the naivety of the masses or anger to how easy it is to become president of the United States and that are those who do not deserve to occupy such esteemed positions. All these problems and explanations are there to alert us of the grave and significant issues we ought to be seeking to resolve because Kurt Vonnegut is either the biggest pessimist in the world, or the problems we face in society are so great that they deserve such scrutiny and dismay.