Meta-Fiction in Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions

April 18, 2015 – 12:16 pm

This is Vonnegut's depiction of an asshole as seen in Breakfast of Champions.Not many authors -especially well-respected authors- write meta-fiction, fiction that uses literary techniques to draw attention to itself as a work of art. Vonnegut has changed this with his works Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions, in which he appears as a character in both, inextricably linking these novels together.

“And I sat there in the cocktail lounge of the new Holiday Inn, watching Dwayne Hoover stare into the bosom of the shirt of Kilgore Trout. I was wearing a bracelet which looked like this…” (Breakfast of Champions 253). After this quote, Vonnegut draws a picture for us, further pointing out that the novel, and all of the events in it, have been drawn up in his own mind. Having drawings placed in between the text further alerts us to the fact that we’re reading a fictionalized novel; it draws attention to itself, as meta-fiction often does.

“I was really sick for a while, though. I sat there in the cocktail lounge of my own invention, and I stared through my leaks at a white cocktail waitress of my own invention. I named her Bonnie MacMahon” (BOC 199). Vonnegut goes as far as to italicize the word ‘leaks’, highlighting its importance here. Earlier in the novel, and even in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Vonnegut explained that ‘leaks’ are simply Kilgore Trout’s word for glass. Trout believes, half-heartedly, half-jokingly, that looking through a leak allows you to see into another universe. Vonnegut stresses here that he is looking through leaks, and the reader can assume he means he’s using his glasses to look at this separate universe, a universe of his own creation. Staring at and interacting with characters ‘of his own invention’ may remind us of something a schizophrenic might do. In fact, the quote mentioning the idea of ‘leaks’ comes directly after the paragraph where Vonnegut admits to possibly suffering from schizophrenia.

Vonnegut’s words on schizophrenia are these: “I did not and do not know for certain that I have that disease. This much I knew and know: I was making myself hideously uncomfortable by not narrowing my attention to details of life which were immediately important, and by refusing to believe what my neighbors believed. I am better now. Word of honor: I am better now” (BOC 198). Even though he states this, we know he isn’t completely better. Pages later, he admits to downing pills to hold back depression. “There in the cocktail lounge, I took a white pill which a doctor said I could take in moderation, two a day, in order not to feel blue” (BOC 254). Clearly, Vonnegut isn’t to be completely trusted, as contradictions pop out throughout his texts; it is a dialogic text, after all. Vonnegut isn’t sure of the answers to the questions he’s presenting, so it’s only natural that he’d contradict himself in searching for an answer.

Source: the-artifice.com

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