Ben Fisher Mr. Anderson AP Writing and Composition 1 14th November 2012 Cat’s Cradle American Author Analysis by Ben Fisher Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut is a science fiction book that was published in 1963. The book is (falsely thought to be)centered around the narrator, John, and his quest to write a book about what was happeneing with the creators of the atomic bomb the day the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. His adventure follows his travels as he meets with researchers, the children of a fictional Dr. Felix Hoenikker, and ventures to an island nation to talk to the good doctors final son.
Along this course, he explains a religion he does not yet have, as this is from a post-experience diary perspective, called Bokononism, and its practices. He gains knowledge of this religion and its creation on the island of San Lorenzo, which resolves in him becoming president. But this is a side plot of the book. The main plot, hidden in the background, is centered around a ficticious substance called Ice-Nine, with the power to freeze all the worlds oceans in the blink of an eye if it were to touch a single water source, an expression of mans’ ability to destroy the things that surround him.
Cat’s Cradle is set in an unknown year more than 20 years after August 6th, 1945. At the beginning, John visits Ilium, New York to talk to Dr. Asa Breed at General Forge and Foundry, the place in which Felix Hoenikker “worked”, which leads to his discovery of several key locations in the area. The later half is focused on the fictional Carribean island of San Lorenzo, an island nation started by Earl McCabe, a marine deserter, and Bokonon, born Lionel Boyd Johnson, who created Bokononism.
These settings leave a sense of a tight dichotomy between modern America and the Caribbean nation of San Lorenzo. Though the concept of the book within, about the bombing of Hiroshima, and a freeze frame of the events of that day, reveals a young nation holding infinite power in a vast expanse of nothingness. The concept of San Lorenzo as a country in location is central to the happenings of the book. To contrast this idea of self destruction is the concept of Bokononism, a religion outlawed on the island after being created by one of its founders.
Christianity is the official religion, but both Protestantism and Catholicism are illegal, and every single citizen of the island celebrates Bokononism even with the threat of the “hy-u-o-ook-kuh”, representing how San Lorenzan natives pronounce the Hook, a giant fish hook that a Bokononist is threatened to be speared upon if they are caught practicing Bokononism. Though this concept is really an illusory ploy created by Bokonon and McCabe, and perpetrated by the island’s leader, “Papa” Monzano, to give hope in pure foma, or harmless untruths, that form a religion that gives hope and reason instead of defining how you should live.
You exist to serve the wampeter of you karass whilst avoiding granfalloons and trying to find kan-kans that leads the creation of more sinookas that lead to a procces of vin-dits. All the while you may be bothered by stuppas and pool-pah, but when you are busy, busy, busy, you will truly understand your situation, and in your zah-mah-ki-bo, you may lead yourself to think, “Now I will destroy the whole world”. All this while, you may connect to another, boko-maru will most likely lead to you finding your path. * *Translated: In short, the book is lies.
Your life is based around serving the central theme of you group (wampeter of your karass) and avoiding intermingling into false groups (granfalloons), and finding items that help your cause (kan-kans) To create tendrils to intertwine others into your life (sinookas) causing shoves towards Bokononism (vin-dits). A fogbound child (a stuppa) or a shitstorm/the wrath of God (pool-pah) may try to mislead yourself, but eventually tou will think about the complicated and unpredictable machinery of life (busy, busy, busy) and will find your inevitable destiny (zah-mah-ki-bo) leading you to your task unknowingly.
This may end in suicide (Now I will destroy the whole world) due to the duffle placed upon a stuppa (a fate of many placed on one who knows, nor can find, nothing). The idea of boko-maru is supposed to be a very sensual experience that connects two people deeply. Though at any time, your spirit is orbiting an object of great importance, your karass around a wampeter. The person who secondhandedly introduces us to these concepts is not our protagonist. It is our narrator, a minor character in his own aspects, but the only one that is left later, though he never truly matters.
He is simply around to be an expositor of the actions of others, a minor characters sharing the traits of a protagonist. The true protagonist of the story, or which the story revolves around, is Felix Hoenikker, a fictitious addition to the Manhattan project team. He is portrayed as an odd man incapable of conventional thought or process, but able to think up and create brilliant objects in moments when presented with a problem. His mind otherwise wandered his whole life, and he was emotionless and apathetic towards anything but his work.
His children, Newton, Franklin, and Anglea, play major rolls constructing the story for the narrator, exposing themselves as as weird as their father. Their mother, Emily, plays a minor roll in the story, but a major roll in a shift in the good doctors attitude that would barely be noticed by most, including his own children. Bokonon and Earl McCabe are presented as opposing forces, one being the founder and continual contributor of Bokononism, the other of a government willing to convict those practicing to keep the concept practical.
This provides the whole concept of possibility for the ending of the book. One Julian Castle once owned the island and used it as a sugar plantation, and by all means is one of the most complex and thoughtful (see: evil/diabolical) characters in the book, running a humanitarian aid hospital in the jungle of San Lorenzo. He works alongside one Schlicter von Koenigswald, a former S. S. member that had worked in Auschwitz doing various unnamed evil tasks, now working at the Hospital of Hope and Mercy to atone for his sins.
The main characters progress in that they gain a concept of both brotherhood and false family through their karass. By the end, the narrator has gone through rage, happiness, depression, excitement, and finally, he tells himself the truth. He becomes what he once feared, but does not fear what he becomes. The revelations that bring about this change are rather odd. At the beginning, John introduces that this is a book written about the events that brought about the end of the world.
John is writing a book about the day of the dropping of the Little Boy on Hiroshima. This leads to a discussion with Dr. Asa Breed, the man who supervised Felix Hoenikker, the fictional forefather of the atomic bomb. They discuss that the good doctor was very flittery minded, and worked on whatever he felt like. Once, they asked him if he could create something to turn mud to solid ground in seconds. He said it was impossible, and Dr. Breed believed it was never created. The truth is the good Doctor created the substance, named Ice-9, in small portions.
John follows the trail to the son of Doctor Hoenikker, Newt, and his sister, Angela, a painting and a clarinetist, respectively. They all end up meeting on a flight to San Lorenzo, where John heads after learning Frank Hoenikker, the middle son of Doctor Hoenikker, had become the Major General of San Lorenzo. It is later revealed that this was achieved by using a sample of Ice-9 as a bargaining chip, trading it for the position after washing up on the shore after a shipwreck.
The separate chunks, carried by Franklin, Newton, and Angela, were created when the good Doctor, whilst on vacation at his summer home, was playing around with his original sample in his spare time. Whilst on the island, “Papa” Monzano becomes sick, and declares that Franklin will become the next president, and requests Bokononist burial rights. Franklin passes the buck on to John, asking him if he would take the position if he could marry Mona. He accepts, and plans to change the law so Bokononism may be practiced, but sees it has been outlawed such as to carry a flame of hope for all residents of the island.
As he prepares to assume the position, “Papa” Monzano kills himself declaring that he “will destroy the whole world”, and freezing himself with his sample of Ice-9. Angela, Newton, John, and Franklin attempt to destroy any samples of Ice-9 and the corpse, but during a staged bombing run, one of the planes crash into the cliffside mansion and knock his body into the water, freezing the whole world solid. John and Mona takes refuge in a chamber built by “Papa” Monzano for the same reason, and they survive to see it in wreck, tornadoes reigning supreme, the sky a blanket of everlasting storms.
Mona, upon finding most of the population frozen, tastes a small sample of the snow created by Ice-9, and dies instantly. John then happens upon the others who survived in the remains of the castle, and shortly thereafter meets Bokonon. The possible final words of the Books of Bokonon, driving the narrator subconsciously and consciously throughout the book, are well thought out, but only in the moment. “If I were a younger man, I would write a history of human tupidity; and I would climb to the top of Mount McCabe and lie down on my back with my history for a pillow; and I would take form the ground some of the blue-white poison that makes statues of men; and I would make a statue of myself, lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who. ” Throughout the book, constant references are made to the book within the book about the creation of the atomic bomb. Along these lines, Cats Cradle itself is an allegory about the destructive power of man when faced with an object of great potential that can be so easily mishandled.
Ice-9 represents the arms race, and is a literalization of the phrase “Cold War”. Taking the context of the stringent political atmosphere between America and Cuba/Soviet Russia at the time, Vonnegut creates the theoretical isle of San Lorenzo for the bringers of doom, much as the Americans perceived Cuba could bring about the same end in an alternative fashion. Nuclear winter makes a strong connection, along with the toxicity of the snow that is brought about, along with the changes in weather and atmosphere. I opened my eyes—and all the sea was ice-nine. The moist green earth was a blue-white pearl. The sky darkened. Borasisi, the sun, became a sickly yellow ball, tiny and cruel. The sky was filled with worms. The worms were tornadoes” (P. 151). The true severity of the arms race is also parodied by the easy manner in which “Papa” Monzano brings about the end, with just a touch of the material to his tongue, similar to how with just the touch of a button over a faulty Early Detection System, the world could be brought to Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).
Kurt Vonnegut, as he has done in many of his pieces, inserted his own consciousness to portray John, allowing him to insert his own perspective on any scene in which he is included. Though John only represents parts of his personality, and is not wholly the same. Through a combination of conversation, observation, and presentation of the conceptual ideas of this parallel reality, the exploration of practical destruction. Relevant to this information is his personal experiences in the happenings of war and the propensity of our people to complete these actions.
Today, this book is a paradoxical, if not accurate, mirror to the climate at the time. Cold and drastic, not an inch to budge or you’d get bombed to smithereens. In this way, Kurt Vonnegut challenged a major part of what was considered standard for a novel, and instead wrote what he felt would move correctly, and for that he is remembered. “In the beginning, God created the earth, and he looked upon it in his cosmic loneliness.
And God said, “Let Us make living creatures out of mud, so the mud can see what We have done. ” And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close to mud as man sat, looked around, and spoke. “What is the purpose of all this? ” he asked politely. “Everything must have a purpose? ” asked God. “Certainly,” said man. “Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this,” said God. And He went away. ” I thought this was trash. (Pg. 153)