Naked Lunch | Study Guide

William Burroughs

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Naked Lunch | Chapter 19 : Have You Seen Pantopon Rose? | Summary



An old junkie makes his way through the seedy areas of a city, looking to get more drugs. The images are disjointed and sinister. They include a gangster encased in concrete, poisoned pigeons, boys masturbating in alleys, junkies looking for a vein, sidewalks "slippery with Koch spit" (semen).


Pantopon is a brand name for opium, but in this context, Pantopon Rose is the name of someone the junkie is looking for. The description of her is unclear, but the name itself is evocative of the subject of a romantic ballad. The romantic idea is quickly undercut by the images showing America in an advanced state of decay and disorder. This is a glimpse of the America the mainstream tries to pretend doesn't exist. Mainstream culture emphasizes the appearance of goodness and virtue in the culture, even though that appearance is demonstrably false.

This is one of several sections toward the end of Naked Lunch that adopt a more disjointed approach to language. These chapters appear to provide a predecessor to Burroughs's later use of the cut-up technique in his later writing.

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