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Cats Cradle Essay

Kurt Vonnegut distances his readers from the novel’s grim vision through his Rabelaisian humor, but zany as the book is, its underlying disenchantment with society and its various institutions is ubiquitous and inescapable. Even the narrator’s adopted Bokononism views itself as nonsense, but this cheerful admission is made in the process of revealing that most human organizations and institutions are granfalloon, or false karasses with meaningless beliefs, much like the cat’s cradle, string wound around fingers of human hands, having nothing to do with either cats or cradles—an appropriate symbol for the novel’s nihilism.

Like many novels and plays written in the early de-cades of the Cold War era, Cat’s Cradle uses varieties of the absurd to articulate its existential theme. Many of its characters are physically, emotionally, or mentally abnormal or deficient. Dr. Hoenikker, a scientific genius, has no feelings and reacts to his children’s pain by stringing together a cat’s cradle of noninvolvement. Others express themselves in seemingly incongruous ways. The gangly Angela, for example, plays the clarinet with consummate skill and haunting beauty. Others are emotionally crippled by their pasts, as is von Koenigswald, formerly a doctor at Auschwitz, who attempts a Sisyphean atonement for his past by saving lives at San Lorenzo’s House of Hope and Mercy.

Vonnegut’s plain style and understated...

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The Satire of Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle Essay

1009 Words5 Pages

The Satire of Cat's Cradle

Cat's Cradle is, "Vonnegut's most highly praised novel. 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.

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The story of Bokonon and his religion begins with the dictator of San Lorenzo and Bokonon at first 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" (Scholes 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" (Scholes 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" (Scholes 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

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