The Authorial Power/lessness in
Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-V
and Breakfast of Champion

Chapter One The "Loss" of Authorial Power in Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions

Introd.Chapter 2
Sarah Chen-Chi Hu
On the Back of a Roll of Paper¡K

In addition to authorial intrusion, the revelation of the writing process of the fiction also gives more evidence to show the loss of the traditional authorial power to offer a linear or well-made plot. Presumably, the more coherent, convincing and dramatic the plot is, the more the author can seduce and attract readers into a seamless representation of the make-believe world.

However, instead of offering any dramatic suspension, readers are told at the beginning of SF that it will begin with the sentence "Billy Piligrim has come unstuck in time" and that it will end with "poo-tee-weet?"" We learn every detail of Billy's life not through the chronological development of the plot, but through apparently random presentation of the character's moments in life. Therefore, in SF, there is no suspense, or climax as we can find in traditional novels as the author will keep the controlling power over his or her readers as involved as possible in the process of reading, and every revelation of the fictional details follows the logical sequence of fictional development.

The plot arrangement of BC is also not dramatic or suspenseful. In BC, we actually have a plot summary of the whole story at the beginning chapter, while the stories of the meeting between the "two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men," Kilgore Trout and Dwayne Hoover, are gradually revealed. We know the "climax" of the story as Vonnegut points out the reason of Dwayne Hoover's getting insane. "Here was the core of the bad ideas which Trout gave to Dwayne: "Everybody on Earth was a robot, with one exception¡XDwayne Hoover" (14). We also learn the outcome of these two characters: Trout will have to become "a pioneer in the field of mental health" and Dwayne must get "carted off to a lunatic asylum in a canvas camisole" (15). Therefore, the author gives away the control over the plot in a chronological manner, and appears to be powerless in directing the act of reading.

Noticeably, in both novels, the narrative intrusions overlap with the revelation of the writing process in how they affect the author's structural control over the narrative. In the same way, the exposure of the creative process also undermines the omniscient and omnipotent power of the author, since readers learn about the frustration and failure of the working process. In SF, the Vonnegut persona addresses to the reader his frustration of incorporating the Dresden memories into a book: "I would hate to tell you what this lousy little book cost me in money and anxiety and time" (2). Though the narrator claims that "the best outline . . . , or anyway the prettiest one, was on the back of a roll wall paper," (5) we learn as the story goes on that the outline he has worked so many times still is not accepted by the author at the end.

In BC, the author reveals a parallel situation by telling how difficult it is to control his characters: "Here was the thing about my control over the characters I created: I could only guide their movements approximately, since they were such big animals. There was inertia to overcome. It wasn't as though I was connected to them by steel wires. It was more as though I was connected to them by stale rubber bands" (202). Furthermore, by the schizophrenic dialogues between Vonnegut as author and character, the frustration and suffering can never be deeper:

"This is a very bad book you're writing," I said to myself behind my leaks. "I know ," I said.

"You're afraid you'll kill yourself the way your mother did," I said.

"I know," I said. (193)

From here, we can say that the revelation of the writing process and the confession of the difficulties in it not only break down the structure of novel but also threaten the traditional image of the author as a figure transcending life and turning it into a work of art. The author does not function as a god-like figure to the text, but rather as a reorganizer of various writing materials presented to readers. The author explicitly admits his problematic position in the composing of the fiction, and also questions his own ability to convey messages by the very narrative he is working on. Here, along with the belittled image of the writer figure, Kilgore Trout, the authors "in" both novels also appear to be powerless in offering a coherent fictional structure and a chronological plot.