Relating to Major and Minor Characters in Storybooks in America in Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions

Living Life Like a Storybook

Wouldn’t it be nice to live life by being able to do whatever without suffering any

consequences? Storybook characters can do whatever they want without having to worry what is going to happen in the end. Kurt Vonnegut wrote about life in his book Breakfast of Champions and he explained that Americans try to live to mirror characters in storybooks. Just like storybooks, Vonnegut touches on the idea of life having main and minor character. Some Americans believe that their choices won’t directly affect them because much like a storybook, characters can act without receiving the consequences they may deserve. As shown in Breakfast of Champions, Vonnegut used examples of gun violence, environmental changes, and racism to support the idea that Americans live their lives like characters in storybooks.

Whether it is a storybook or real life, gun violence can make any story interesting. Gun violence is a major issue in the United States and innocent people continue losing their lives to guns. Vonnegut demonstrated gun violence in the story by saying, “sometimes people would put holes in famous people so they could be at least fairly famous, too. Sometimes people would get on airplanes which were supposed to fly to someplace, and they would offer to put holes in the pilot and co-pilot unless they flew the airplane to someplace else” (50). This was told after he gave another example of a young boy shooting his parents because he didn’t want them to see his bad report card. These incidents support the idea that people act without thinking of the consequences because they feel their life is a storybook and their actions won’t have any consequences. Acting without thinking is the mentality of storybook characters and many Americans have that mentality. There are Americans that believe gun violence is not an issue and would much rather devote their attention and resources to solve other problems; this is living like a character in a storybook. Ignoring issues that have drastic impacts on families daily because people think gun violence won’t affect them directly is what happens in storybooks. In a

storybook world, gun violence would just resolve itself and that is what some Americans are hoping for, but that is not going to happen. Not everyone in the world will be affected by gun violence during their lifetime, but one issue that impacts Americans and the whole world is environmental changes.

It’s hard to deny that the environment is changing due to human decisions and practices. Global warming is an extremely big issue around the world and some people try not to acknowledge its existence. Vonnegut supported the issue of environment changes by saying, “Trout told Bill that humanity deserved to die horribly, since it had behaved so cruelly and wastefully on a planet so sweet” (18). Storybook characters don’t have to worry about their actions having negative impacts on the planet, which could explain why some Americans don’t believe in global warming. There is only one planet that can be home to humans and people take advantage of that. Environmental changes are another example of Americans trying to escape reality by ignoring the issue rather than trying to solve it. It is easier to believe that the human race is doing nothing wrong and isn’t destroying the planet because that’s what a storybook character would do. Vonnegut believes that the human race should die horrible because of their actions, which will happen if changes aren’t made to help save the planet. If changes aren’t made, campaigns will shift their idea from “save our planet” to “save the human race.” Eventually the Earth will start to eliminate the humans because resources will no longer be available, but storybook characters don’t have to worry about that. The way people treat the planet isn’t the only issue, the way people treat each other is another issue.

Relating to main and minor characters in storybooks, Americans categorize different races into those groups of main and minor. Although Americans have come a long way in regards to human rights, racism still exists. There is systematic racism and the way the system

is designed it prevents black people from succeeding. Vonnegut explained racism by stating, “the reindeer problem was essentially this: Nobody white had much use for black people anymore- except for the gangsters who sold the black people used cars and dope and furniture. They were given small amounts of money every month, so they wouldn’t have to steal” (168). This supports the idea that white Americans are the main characters and black Americans are the minor

characters. White Americans don’t have a use for black Americans anymore, just like main characters in storybooks don’t value the minor characters. Americans continue to keep black people oppressed by making it harder for them to succeed to prevent them from being the main character. The idea of racism shows that Americans live like storybook characters because as long as they fall in the main character category they could care less what happens to the minor characters. Just like the other issues Americans experience, they ignore the issue of racism unless it directly affects them just as storybook characters do.

Life would be so much easier if everyone was able to just ignore all problems and live life however they wanted to without experiencing any consequences. People have a hard time distinguishing between reality and living like a storybook character because it is more favorable to live like a storybook character. Vonnegut used examples of gun violence, environmental changes, and racism in Breakfast of Champions to demonstrate how Americans live their lives like storybook characters. Gun violence is a major issue that has effects on lives daily, yet people act like storybook characters and ignore the issue unless it impacts them personally. Some Americans fail to acknowledge environmental changes because characters in a storybook don’t have to worry about issues like that. Racism exists in America because the main characters don’t value the minor characters, just like in storybooks. Every American may be

trying to live their life like characters in a storybook, but their actions in life will make each of

their endings different from the other.

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