The Negative Portrayal of Women in Breakfast of Champions Essay

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The Negative Portrayal of Women in Breakfast of Champions

Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions was written, as he says in the opening pages, "to clear my head of all the junk in there. . . . The things other people have put into my head, at any rate, do not fit together nicely, are often useless and ugly" (5). Though Vonnegut wrote this book over twenty years after Simone de Beauvoir made her assessment of women's place in the world, his searing social critique shows that the position of women has not changed much, that they are still the "Others" in relation to men. A flawed society contributes to the situation, but Vonnegut shows that misplaced priorities, foolish behavior, and shallow ways of thinking lead to bad ends for
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When she sees Dwayne, she naively thinks that "he could do for her what the Fairy Godmother could do for Cinderella, if he wanted to" (137). She realizes that he holds money and power, and this makes him a "magical person" in her eyes (137). As she thinks about how he could help her solve her problems, Patty notices that Dwayne is acting strangely and seems depressed. This causes her to feel sorry for him, and turns her thoughts to how she can help Dwayne. Vonnegut writes, "Patty Keene was persuaded that she could make him happy with her young body, with her bravery and cheerfulness" (143). However, Patty's sympathy is clouded with materialistic thoughts of "all of the new and used cars Dwayne owned" (143). She is willing to prostitute herself, since Dwayne could "give her a fine house and new automobiles and nice clothes and a life of leisure, and he could pay all the medical bills . . . as easily as she had given him his hamburger and his French fries and his Coke" (137).

Francine Pefko, Dwayne Hoover's secretary and mistress, is the best example of a woman completely submissive to the will of man. She is a very efficient employee; at work she is described as "pure machinery. . . A machine made out of meat--a typing machine, a filing machine" (188). On a particularly busy afternoon, Dwayne asks her to go to a motel with him, and Francine thinks it is "her duty to go . . .

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