Naked Lunch | Study Guide

William Burroughs

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Naked Lunch | Chapter 6 : The Black Meat | Summary



The Sailor menaces a shoeshine boy in a café, laughing about the quality of his veins. Then the Sailor moves on to talk with "Fats" Terminal, attempting to make a deal with him for Black Meat. The Sailor proceeds through the streets of "The City" to a plaza where traffickers in Black Meat gather. Black Meat is "flesh of the giant aquatic black centipede." The Sailor makes his way to the Meet Café at one end of the plaza. There he finds naked Mugwumps, creatures who live on sweets and excrete an addictive, life-prolonging fluid from their penises. Addicts of this fluid are called Reptiles, fleshy creatures covered with arrays of "hollow erectile hairs" behind each ear. The Sailor makes a deal with one of these Reptiles to buy Black Meat for Fats.


The shoeshine boy's reaction to the Sailor reveals the Sailor's sinister qualities. He sees the world around him only in relation to his own addictions and habits. A young person is a container for veins that might be used for drug use. He appears to only have acquaintances with dealers, so the relationship is purely business. The Sailor's drug use has made him uniquely isolated from the rest of society, even the twisted society of addicts and suppliers in Interzone. (Chapters 13 and 17 reveal the Meet Café and the Market are located in Interzone.)

The Mugwumps are grotesque, alien-like creatures, as are their companions, the Reptiles. The symbiotic relationship between these two species mirrors the symbiotic relationship that evolves between dealers and addicts. These relationships may involve sexual congress in exchange for junk, just as the Reptiles engage in sexual contact with the Mugwumps. Burroughs provides a grotesque description of these creatures, with the focus on how the Reptiles have evolved to service the Mugwumps. This vivid metaphor reveals how this relationship between dealers and junkies makes the participants monstrous in appearance and function.

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