Cat's Cradle

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The Human Vaccination

Modern medicine has proved that the best way to prevent the contraction of a disease for humans is to inject a tolerable amount of the virus into the host and let the individual's immune system build a defense capable of withstanding future invasions of the same strand. The small pox vaccination, for example, has eliminated the disease from almost every nation on Earth.

But what if the disease is psychological, a way of being or state of mind rather than a physical aberration? My interpretation of Vonnegut's statement to "poison minds with humanity …to encourage them to make a better world" leads me to think that he would approach the problem with the same method. Inject just a bit of stupidity, naiveté, and prideful ignorance directly into the cerebellum so that, hopefully, gradually, humanity will wean themselves of these traits.

The technique must be subtle. The needle and syringe must appear nonthreatening or no one will take it. Therefore disguise the needle with cynicism and satire. The idea is to present forms of unwanted human behavior that all of us possess and practice throughout our daily lives and make the reader aware of them. Show the reader humans being human and make them aware of all the stupid, silly, rude things we do and say everyday. Consider the ignorance of Miss Pefko, who neither finds science the very antithesis of magic nor understands the meaning of the word antithesis, the rude curtness of Marvin Breed and Philip Castle, and the duping of the entire population of the Bokonon religion based not on God, but upon socialism and lies. Cat's Cradle is full of characters that display very human, very unwanted traits.

By recognizing these traits and consciously thinking about...

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...niverse, he his painting a clear picture of the pitfalls of life. It is very clear that in Cat's Cradle, Vonnegut views religion and science as an excuse to not be responsible for individual actions. The Episcopalian woman in Newport believed that by knowing God, she knew everything, and yet lacked the ability to read a blueprint (13). Dr. Hoenikker hid behind that façade of science so that an institution could carry the burden of his inventions, and Jonah blamed Bokonon for the mass suicide, never once mentioning that each individual had a choice of whether or not to kill themselves (182).

Vonnegut's use of satire coats the poisonous pen used to show his readers the inescapable consequences of stupidity and arrogance. Displaying the darkness and destruction of mankind allows his readers to see where changes can be made that would allow a better world to emerge.
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