Essay on The Negative Portrayal of Women in Breakfast of Champions

Essay on The Negative Portrayal of Women in Breakfast of Champions

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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 women.  In the descriptions of Patty Keene, Francine Pefko, Mary Alice Miller, and Beatrice Keedsler, it becomes evident that Vonnegut intends to show not only female submission to males, but also to show how the weaknesses in the present ways of thinking result in negative events .

In describing the character of Patty Keene, Vonnegut is also commenting on the general state of women, and the fact that very few seem to think for themselves.  He says that Patty is "stupid on purpose, which was the case with most women in Midland City.  The women all had big minds because they were big animals, but they did not use them much for this reason: unusual ideas could make enemies, and the women, if they were going to achieve any sort of comfort and safety, needed all the friends they could get" (136).  Vonnegut then criticizes women for becoming "agreeing machines instead of thinking machines," since many form their opinions by merely finding out "what other people were thinking, and then they thought...


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...iety, circa 1973.  In portraying materialistic Patty Keene, submissive Francine Pefko, dominated Mary Alice Miller, and frivolous Beatrice Keedsler, Vonnegut suggests that the women are not totally responsible for their weak behavior and ideas; rather that they are the products of an imperfect society in which females must submit to males.  However, whatever the cause of the flawed ways fo thinking, the results are usually negative, especially for the women involved.

"What peculiarly signalizes the situation of woman is that She--a free and autonomous being like all other human creatures--nevertheless finds herself living in a world where men compel her to assume the status of the 'Other'"

--Simone de Beauvoir, Introduction to The Second Sex, Knopf, XXXV. 

Works Cited:

Vonnegut, Kurt. Breakfast of Champions. New York: Dell Publishing Co., Inc., 1973.

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