Dissertation >

Depth in "Depthlessness"

Author FuChuan
Tutor ZhangXuChun
School Sichuan International Studies University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Vonnegut Breakfast of Champions postmodern depthlessness humanitarian concern
Type Master's thesis
Year 2009
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With more than ten novels and many short essays and critical works, Kurt Vonnegut is considered by many writers as the father of contemporary American science fiction. The English writer Graham Greene praised him as "one of the best living American writers". He could break free of conventions and write with a great ease about the travel across time and space. His works feature black humor, science fiction style and postmodern skills.In his Breakfast of Champions (1973), Vonnegut bitterly satirized the condition of existence of men in the late capitalist society, through the description of the absurd experiences of the two protagonists―Kilgore Trout, the writer and Dwayne Hoover, the Pontiac dealer.With lots of vulgar pictures and short and simple sentences, Vonnegut gave a full view of the depthless late capitalist society. But beneath the appearantly depthless text lies Vonnegut’s serious reflection upon the depthless commercial culture of the late capitalist society. In the light of Fredric Jameson’s postmodern theory of depthlessness, this thesis aims to analyze the approaches Vonnegut employed to represent the depthless late capitalist society and his reflection upon it.The main body of the thesis is divided into three chapters. Chapter one deals with the formal strategies Vonnegut used to represent the postmodern depthlessness, including visual cultural elements, explanatory contents and some reflective images. Chapter Two discusses Vonnegut’s depthless characterization in the novel, mainly through the analyzing the waning of free will in the three main characters: the poor writer Kilgore Trout, the wealthy Pontiac dealer Dwayne Hoover, and "Creator" of them―the narrator Philboyd Studge. Chapter Three reveals Vonnegut’s humanitarian outcry against the postmodern flatness from three aspects: people’s spiritual well-being, a harmonious relationship between man and nature, and social equality. After the body chapters comes the conclusion that Vonnegut skillfully used postmodern strategies to represent a depthless postmodern society in Breakfast of Champions, and beneath the apparently superficial text, lies Vonnegut’s serious reflection upon the postmodern commercial culture, and his humanistic idea of constructing a humanitarian and harmonious society.

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