Essay, Research Paper: Cat's Cradle

World Literature

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Cat's Cradle is, "Vonnegut's most highly praised novels. Filled with humor
and unforgettable characters, this apocalyptic story tells of Earth's ultimate
end, and presents a vision of the future that is both darkly fantastic and
funny, as Vonnegut weaves a satirical commentary on modern man and his
madness" (Barnes and Noble n.pag). In Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut uses
satire as a vehicle for threatened self-destruction when he designs the
government of San Lorenzo. In addition, the Bokonists practice of Boko-maru, and
if the world is going to end in total self destruction and ruin, then people
will die, no matter how good people are and what religion people believe. An
example of satire that Kurt Vonnegut uses is when he designs the government of
San Lorenzo. San Lorenzo is a small island somewhere in the Caribbean. The
people in San Lorenzo are doomed to failure no matter what leader they have, and
they have always been this way. San Lorenzo, in the novel, is pictured as one of
the most unsuccessful and useless places on earth. The people there are very
poor, do not have much to eat, and do not have any motivation left at all,
"Johnson and McCabe had failed to raise the people from the misery and
muck" (Achebe 133). Thus, that is why they do not care anymore who there
leader is going to be, because they know that they are going to fail anyway,
"Everybody was bound to fail, for San Lorenzo was as unproductive as an
equal area in the Sahara or the Polar Icecap" (Achebe 133). The way that
the people are kept alive is by trickery by the government and the holy man
Bokonon. The story of Bokonon and his religion begins with the dictator of San
Lorenzo and Bokonon at first Shteyrenberg 2 being friends, but then they decided
to govern San Lorenzo by themselves. Seeing that the people are hopeless and
without direction, Bokonon invents his religion, "When Bokonon and McCabe
took over this miserable country year ago…they through out the priests. And
then Bokonon, cynically and playfully invented a new religion" (Achebe
172). But then McCabe outlaws it and makes practicing any religion other than
Christianity punishable by the deadly Hook, "Anybody caught practicing
Bokononsim in San Lorenzo, will die on the Hook" (Achebe 134). All the
people on the island have become devout Bokonists, and the struggle between the
government and the religion keeps them entertained, and therefore alive,
"Well, when it became evident that no government or economic reform was
going to make the people much less miserable, the religion became the one real
instrument of hope. Truth was the enemy of the people, because the truth was so
terrible, so Bokonon made it his business to provide the people with better and
better lies" (Achebe 172). The hopeless, directionless people represent
mankind as a whole and the government plot represents what Vonnegut sees as
society's mindless, clear diversion from reality that keeps everyone interested
in life. An example of satire as a vehicle of self-destruction in the story is
the Bokonists practice of Boko-maru. Boko-maru is the Bokonists tradition of
placing the naked soles of one's feet to another person's naked soles, "…Bokononists
mingled their souls by pressing the bottoms of their feet together" (Achebe
135). This is the very silly and pointless part of the religion that seems to be
based on nothing at all. Bokononism says that one cannot touch soles with
another person without loving them, and therefore sole touching is a good thing
since it promotes love. This is sarcastic because a Boko-maru Shteyrenberg 3
comes from a religion that accuses itself as a pack of lies, and yet has a
feature that is strangely true. The crucial example of satire as a vehicle of
self-destruction in the story is that no matter what religion people believe in,
no matter what acts of goodness people perform, nothing in the end can save
everything from total ruin and pointlessness. The destruction of the world by
ice nine shows Vonnegut's tendency towards his negative view of the world. No
matter what any of the characters wished for or did, the world was destroyed all
the same by some incredibly stupid and pointless force called God, who guided
the entire human race through its wasted and bloody history simply so one man
could, "Climb to the top of Mount McCabe and lie down on my back…thumbing
my nose at You Know Who" (Achebe 287). Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut is a
satire on the state of world affairs in the 1960's. At the beginning of the
novel, the narrator is researching for a book he is writing. The book is to be
about the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and the lives of the
people who created the bomb. The narrator is involved in events which are
helplessly beyond his control, but which are unavoidably leading to a
destination at the end. In the end the entire earth is destroyed, through a
seemingly impossible series of coincidences and completely random events, which
are strangely explained by Bokononism. All through the story Vonnegut builds up
his theme of the pointlessness of life with the help of satire. An example of
this is the religion of Bokononism. Bokononism says that that all religions
(including Bokononism) are nothing but a pack of hideous lies, which should be
completely ignored.
Bibliography
Barnes and Noble. "The Synopsis." Cat's Cradle. http://coe.ilstu.edu/labschool/uhigh/english/S1Vonn/vonnpage.htm
Jr., Kurt Vonnegut. Cat's Cradle. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing:
1963.

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