Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cat's Cradle

Cat’s Cradle has been compared with some of George Orwell’ s dystopian stories.  There is a social satire in Cat’s Cradle just as  there is one in both Animal Farm and 1984. Yet Cat’s Cradle relies more on the plot than on the development of the characters. I am not trying to imply that characters are not well developed in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, but his approach is different.
  First of all, Kurt Vonnegut breaks the popular rule of writing fiction: “show, don’t tell”. He tells us a lot about the characters. The telling takes precedence over the showing of their identities. I don’t get to feel emotionally close to the characters, even though we learn a lot about their intimate lives. Yet this is not a flaw of the tale but a way of featuring the robotic nature of the society he portrays through humor and interesting insights.
The novel is told in first person by John, a writer who wants to research the life of the deceased scientist, Felix Hoenikker, the man who created the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. John gets to interview his three kids who are now adults, and his life changes drastically throughout the course of the tale.
 Kurt Vonnegut creates a fictional religion, Bokononism, through which he shows a society that is more concerned about faith than about the search for truth.  But Felix Hoenikker, the venerated, controversial scientist, was different from the rest (mind you, "different" does not mean "better").
 “I suppose it’s high treason and ungrateful and ignorant and backward and anti-intellectual to call a dead man as famous as Felix Hoenikker a son of a bitch. I know all about how harmless and gentle and dreamy he was supposed to be, how he’d never hurt a fly, how he didn’t care about money and power and fancy clothes and automobiles and things, how he wasn’t like the rest of us, how he was better than the rest of us…”
 Kurt Vonnegut’s  carries us away to imaginary settings and hilarious social situations in which the characters interpret their reality under the light of their dogmatic beliefs. The novel has many twists and turns that are evidence of Vonnegut’s fascinating imagination.
  One of the most important themes  of Cat's Cradle is the role that human stupidity plays in self-destruction.

 I found some thought-provoking quotes in this novel:

“She hated people who thought too much. At that moment, she struck me as an appropriate representative for almost all mankind.”

“It was the belief of Bokonon that good societies could be built only by pitting good against evil, and by keeping the tension between the two high at all times.”

“Sometimes I wonder if he wasn’t born dead. I never met a man who was less interested in the living. Sometimes I think that’s the trouble with the world: too many people in high places who are stone-cold dead.”

“Americans are forever searching for love in forms it never takes, in places it can never be.”

 Cat's Cradle was banned in 1972 by an Ohio School district board. The reason for this is not clear. The decision was later overturned in 1976.



    1. Thank you for your encouragement.
      Merry Christmas and Happy new Year to you too.

  2. Replies
    1. I'm glad to know you appreciate my selection of quotes. Thanks.

  3. Excellent review, Julia! Over the years, I’ve heard so much about “Cat’s Cradle” but never got around to reading Vonnegut’s book. A fictional religion “that is more concerned about faith than about the search for truth,” well, perhaps (in my opinion) not so far removed from the truth of some religions. The role that human stupidity might play in self-destruction is an interesting and provocative theme that is timely in many respects. Those quotes were very thought-provoking! So wrong that the book was banned by the Ohio school district board in 1972 and even worse that it was banned without ever having been read by that same school board. Outrageous and I am totally against banning books. I’m glad that decision was later overturned.

    1. Thank you, Madilyn.
      Your comment is thought-provoking.
      I agree with you. This story has much relevance in today's world. Vonnegut was a visionary.
      One of my New Year's resolutions is to read more books that have been banned.
      Have a lovely Sunday, my friend.

  4. Hi Julia - I knew I'd have to spend time here and with a clearer head than is sometimes around over Christmas and New Year. Interesting to read your review and notes .. and then to see the job Kurt Vonnegut did at GE ... a job I'd never have thought would be a position to have. But I live and learn ..

    This was interesting ... and yes I see you'll be reading more books that have been banned ...

    Have a very happy 2015 - cheers Hilary

    1. Thanks, Hilary.
      Interesting comment. Yes, he worked at GE.
      He was also the president of the American Humanist Association if I remember correctly.


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