Avoiding Reality in Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions and Cat's Cradle

Avoiding Reality in Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions and Cat's Cradle

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Barry Diller once said, " This is a world in which reasons are made up because reality is too painful," implying that people would rather live within a created state of reality than to face what is ultimately true. Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions and Cat's Cradle reveal the truth behind human ways, and how people avoid dealing with reality at all costs. Breakfast of Champions explains the way in which human tendencies are defense mechanisms, while Cat's Cradle proves that all truth is eventually lost because human ways are so warped. In each novel Vonnegut depicts human nature to shun reality.
Throughout the novel, Breakfast of Champions, Vonnegut portrays humans as being destructive, stereotypical people with a warped sense of communication. All of which are common human tendencies that are used solely as defense mechanisms.
Vonnegut's, Breakfast of Champions, shows the need for humans to stereotype. People tend to focus on very irrelevant details, such as race and sex, rather than more important issues. People comment that " the agency [is] on the black side of town," and that is where the " agricultural machines" are living (Vonnegut 41,73). Asserting that the black people have their own side of town and are not human, but " hundred-nigger [machinery]," used to work in the fields (150). People also tend to see household work as " women work," and that is exactly how it is referred to, which shows how women are considered to be inferior beings. (251). Vonnegut determines that although these details are not relevant they do serve a purpose; they point out a very common Black Humor theme, the inadequacy to deal with actual human problems (Vonnegut Web N.P.).
Kurt Vonnegut then addresses the way people communicate. " Most people… [are] so insecure when they [speak], so they [keep] their sentences short and simple" (Vonnegut 142). Human beings lack communication skills and are therefore insecure with all conversation. They do not want to stumble upon any truth that may force them to confront reality. People are also "enchanted by sound" they will buy into anything that seems pleasing (113). Objects are popular if they possess an obliging name or because one simply " [likes] the sound of it" (175). People must have things that they can believe make them happy or good people; without that people are faced with truth.

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People do not listen, they assume they know what they will hear, so when language is not composed of meaningless cliches it consists of ritualistic responses to block out the real world (Hubert N.P.).
Breakfast of Champions also reveals that humans use guns to gain control of a bad situation. A gun, " a tool whose only purpose [is] to make holes in human beings," displays that guns are worthless because they used for the wrong purpose when in the wrong hands (Vonnegut 49). Guns only increase the chaos among the human race when " criminals point guns at people and demand money," especially when "everybody [has] one" (Vonnegut 49, 50). People shoot each other so often because it is a convenient device to bring some form of order to chaos, when in actuality, people should bring order to their own chaos by confronting it head on (N.P. 3).



Throughout Cat's Cradle, Vonnegut focuses on how people are stuck in their ways of avoiding reality and are losing sight of what is true. Vonnegut depicts confusion about what is real and what is imaginary. He then explains how people rationalize living with in lies and how they feel when finally faced with reality.
In Cat's Cradle, Vonnegut presents the town of San Lorenzo as a town of extreme beauty, with its lavish hotels and boulevard. These monuments are however, all illusionary to the real town. " The Casa Mona [is] built like a book case," this way no one could see the sides or back which is symbolic to the mere essence of the town (Vonnegut 131). Later Vonnegut writes that the townspeople emphasize materialistic things. A young girl " [collapses] an 18oz bottle of Pepsi to her chest," demonstrating how much she treasures the drink. Yet beneath the disguise of useless concerns, the town of San Lorenzo is actually full of chaos (120). It is uncertain as to what is real and what is illusionary. Vonnegut describes how the Bokonon beliefs state that the idea of a nation is really meaningless " in terms of the way God gets things done" (82). This religion comforts people because they can then dismiss any horrors they cross due to war and such, not as something wrong with mankind, but as a misconception that man can rid himself through a form of confession. The Bokonon religion also believes that man should not waste his time trying to realize what is true or illusionary because " man proposes, God disposes" (Vonnegut Web N.P), in other words God works in mysterious ways. Bokonon is another way people find they can take advantage of living in a fantasy they create as their own reality. Life is initially like " a cat's cradle game, " seeming complex when in reality it is just a simple string (Houghton N.P.).
Kurt Vonnegut also illustrates the way in which people try to justify living with in their own lies, starting with religion. He states that " anyone unable to understand how useful religion can be, founded on lies will not understand this book," suggesting that all religions are founded on lies, but are nevertheless useful (Vonnegut 16). People need to feel as though they are moral. All people are " full time actors in a play they [understand]" (144). Bokonon believers know that Bokonon is full of deceptions yet they need those lies, so they go on and act as though they completely agree and understand a religion founded on truthful lies (Houghton N.P.). Vonnegut then focuses on Hoenikker, the atom bomb creator, he lives with in science and in order to rationalize his rejection of his family he simply states that " science [is] going to discover the basic secret of life someday" (Vonnegut 30). Untruths are necessary because they work and help people to accept their misfortunes with equanimity (Vonnegut Web N.p.).
Finally, Vonnegut depicts what it is like when people are left without the lies and cliches to protect them and what happens when they are forced to face what is true. Once people are exempt from all the lies they live within they become mortal (Houghton N.P.). This realization causes people to cry out ""make me young, make me young" (Vonnegut 191). They long for the original illusionary surroundings, for the "fruit of knowledge" to be taken back (190). People do not want to have their lies taken from them; it makes them vulnerable and forces them to deal with the truth that they have tried to ignore for so long. People then try to act as though they are "past [it all] now," that they can handle the truth, but really they are aching inside. Eventually the cycle of lies continues.



Ultimately Vonnegut proves that ignorance is bliss. When Diller states that " reality is too painful," he is correct. People, without realizing it, rationalize their actions in order to avoid the torture of reality. In Breakfast of Champions, Vonnegut shows the avoidance of reality with defense mechanisms, when in Cat's Cradle he proves that those human tendencies will eventually lead to a warped sense of reality. People really do need to develop reasons to shun reality in order to live happily.
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