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R. A. Lafferty's short story "Dream World" (freely available to read online) starts off with a man (whose name we later learn is Bascombe Swicegood) eating a large breakfast and overhearing two girls talking about the dream which later comes to dominate the story. Repeatedly, throughout this passage, we get an alternation between his defensiveness of how much he's eating and snippets of the girls' conversation. Every part of his meal seems to be large and exaggerated:

Grape juice, pineapple juice, orange juice, apple juice ... why did people look at him suspiciously just because he took four or five sorts of juice for breakfast?

Sausage, only four little links for an order. Did people think he was a glutton because he had four orders of sausage? It didn't seem like very much.

The stares a man must suffer just to get a dozen pancakes on his plate! What was the matter with people who called four pancakes a tall stack? And what was odd about ordering a quarter of a pound of butter? It was better than having twenty of those little pats each on its coaster.

There isn't a thing wrong with ordering three eggs sunny-side up, and three over easy, and three poached ever so soft, and six of them scrambled. What law says a man should have all of his eggs fixed alike? Nor is there anything wrong with ordering five cups of coffee. That way the girl doesn't have to keep running over with refills.

What's the purpose in the story of these sentences? Why punctuate the initial recounting of the dream with descriptions of large quantities of food? It doesn't seem relevant to the dream or the rest of the story, nor does it seem particularly important to build the character of Bascombe Swicegood as a glutton. Is there some relevance or symbolism that I've missed, or is it just a random description of a man eating a large breakfast?

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One purpose for this characteristic might be to show that at the end of the story, Bascombe (despite his changed appearance) is essentially the same at the beginning of the story. Lafferty does this by showing that he still has this enormous appetite.

Or possibly, it's just to set up the last paragraph:

Bascombe attacked manfully his plate of prime carrion. And outside the pungent green rain fell incessantly.

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  • Maybe, but it still feels a bit like a Chekhov's gun that's never used. With so much attention given early on to how much he's eating, I'd expect that to be significant later, rather than just a detail about the character that could be pretty much any personal detail reproduced again at the end of the story.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jan 11 at 16:15

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