Understanding Religion Through Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle

analytical Essay
3194 words
3194 words

Understanding Religion Through Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle

The following is issued as a warning from the author

Kurt Vonnegut to the reader: "Any one unable to understand

how a useful religion can be founded on lies will not

understand this book either"(14). The latter quote is

typical of Vonnegut in his usage of creating a personal


Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was born in Indianapolis, like many

of his characters, in 1922. His life from that point on

closely resembles the lives of the people in his satirical

novel Cat's Cradle. Vonnegut's mother committed suicide when

he was twenty two years old and in many of his novels the

character of the mother is dead. Vonnegut's "lifelong

pessimism clearly has its roots in his parents' despairing

response to the depression" (Allen 2). He was captured in

WWII and was present in Dresden, Germany when it was bombed

and set fire to, killing 135,000 citizens. This later became

the basis for Vonnegut's greatest success


Cat's Cradle was published in 1963, and though it

wasn't as big a success as Slaughterhouse, it became widely

known as contributing to the "counter-culture" since it does

in fact question and counter almost every part of our

society's culture (Reed). One of the largest points of our

culture brought into question in Cat's Cradle is religion.

Vonnegut himself is a Humanist, meaning that he isn't sure

of the existence of a God, but values life above all else.

In his last novel Timequake, Vonnegut explains that he

understands that humans need religion as something to turn

to for comfort and suppo...

... middle of paper ...

... Literature). Columbia,

SC: University of SouthCarolina Press, 1991.

Broer, Lawrence R., editor. Sanity Plea: Schizophrenia in

the Novels of Kurt Vonnegut (revised edition). Tuscaloosa,

AL: University of Alabama Press, 1994

Huber, Chris. The Vonnegut Web. 14 Feb. 2002. 25 Feb. 2002

Klinkowitz, Jerome. Vonnegut in Fact: The Public

Spokesmanship of Personal Fiction. Columbia, SC: University

of South Carolina Press, 1998.

Reed, Peter J. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Warner Books, 1972.

Vit, Marek. Marek Vit's Kurt Vonnegut Corner. 4 Mar. 2002.

25 Feb. 2002

Vonnegut, Kurt . Cat's Cradle. 1963. New York: Dell

Publishing, 1988

Vonnegut, Kurt. Mother Night. New York: Fawcett, 1962.

Vonnegut, Kurt. Timequake. New York: Putnam, 1997

In this essay, the author

  • Explains kurt vonnegut's warning to the reader: "anyone unable to understand how a useful religion can be founded on lies will notunderstand this book."
  • Analyzes how vonnegut's life from that point on closely resembles the lives of the people in his satiricalnovel. his mother committed suicide when he was twenty-two.
  • Analyzes how vonnegut's "slaughterhouse-five" was published in 1963 and contributed to the "counter-culture."
  • Analyzes how vonnegut is a humanist, meaning he isn't sure of the existence of god, but values life above all else.
  • Analyzes how cat's cradle tells a fictional account of how theworld met its end. there are three different writers at work in the story.
  • Analyzes how all three hold true to a passage from another of vonnegut's books "lies told for the sake of artistic effect...can be.. the most beguiling forms of truth."
  • Analyzes how vonnegut demonstrates society's blind dependency on religion. he wanted all things to seem to make some sense, instead of tense.
  • Analyzes how the quote describing why bokonon, christened lionelboyd johnson on the island of tobago in 1891 (vonnegut 74),invented bocononism is said to be found in his "calypsos"
  • Narrates how lionel met up with earl mccabe who had just stolen hiscompany's money. the two set off for miami butwrecked on the shores of san lorenzo.
  • Describes vonnegut as a symbol for society when it is at its lowest andmost desperate. the island itself is worthless when bokonon and mccabe arrived and announced they weretaking control of the island.
  • Narrates how mccabe and bokonon split up the duties to make the island a "par-a-dise" and that they realized that religion was the only real way of making the people happy.
  • Analyzes how vonnegut shows the reader his true insights into why society craves religion so vehemently.
  • Analyzes how bokononism becomes like a sensational play to the people of san lorenzo in which they understand.
  • Analyzes bokonon's theory of "dynamic tension" that talks of the balance between good and evil and thatgood societies can only survive by keeping the tensions between these two things high.
  • Opines that the theory of dynamic tension can be seen throughout the world today. people can not be happy unless they have something to fight for.
  • Analyzes how the bokononist religion pokes fun at the bible for believing ithas all the right answers by paraphrasing a quote from jesus.
  • Compares bokononist thought and christianity, arguing that the most important thing is man, and that god doesn't see why everything has a meaning.
  • Analyzes how vonnegut, as well as bokonon, see religion as a hopeless search for truths that don't exist.
  • Analyzes how julian demontrates his bokononist view of life by accepting the fact that though he talks of jesus andreligion, it means nothing.
  • Analyzes melville's moby dick and an allusion to the bible story of jonah. the whale symbolizes bokononism and religion in general.
  • Analyzes how lorenzo quickly gets rid of his allusions to make bokononism a welcome religion, recognizing the dynamictension that must be present in society. jonah is also confronted with the cold, but lovely,embodiment
  • Analyzes how the religion of harmless untruths helps mona cope by taking away her emotion. jonah tells her to love only him.
  • Analyzes how the title of kurt vonnegut's novel comes from newtonhoenikker’s speech to jonah about the deceptionssociety teaches its children
  • Analyzes how society makes something up and pretends it's not.
  • Analyzes how newt's father and brother serve the purpose of the novel showing the scientific view of religion.
  • Analyzes how the comparison between jesus and a man who created something is striking.
  • Analyzes how felix questioned why he should "bother withmade-up games" such as religion when there are so many realones going on.
  • Analyzes how the devout woman, miss faust, refused to question her faith. he didn't believe in sin.
  • Explains that the faustlegend applies to all devout people who will not accept anything outside their narrow view of religion.
  • Explains that the capitalists are unfavorably represented by the unwitting and ignorant crosby's. h. lowe and his wife hazel are both from chicago.
  • Analyzes how vonnegut describes him as confronting the world with "a certain barn-yard clownishness" but also points out that many things he said about "undisciplined mankind were not only funny but true."
  • Explains that hazel is a firm believer in granfalloons, stating bokonon's statement that if one wishes to study 'a toy balloon', one must remove the skin of it.
  • Analyzes how monzano, hazel, falls back on her religion for comfort in a scary and new situation never realizing that this nation is not christian, but
  • Explains that the only hospital in san lorenzo is the house of hope and mercy run by julian castle, an american millionaire who was repenting for his former life of indulgence by devoting his life to the miserable people of thejungle island.
  • Recounts how the bubonic plague came to sanlorenzo and his father giggled and made his flashlight dance around the dead people stacked outside and turned to philipto to say, "son, someday this will all be yours."
  • Analyzes how julian calls himself a bokononist because he agrees that all religions are lies and recognizes the need for religion to make one feel better whether it is scientific and truthful.
  • Explains that in cat's cradle, the end of the world comes about when all the oceans, streams, lakes, and other bodies of water freeze because of an invention of felix hoenniker thatteaches water to crystallize as hard as a desk.
  • Analyzes how the reactions of the various people on san lorenzo give insight into their character. the crosby's run away from thetornadoes that suddenly form due to the sudden lack of moisture yelling "american!"
  • Narrates how they survived until the tornadoes left the surface, found bokononand captured him. they carried him to the top of the highest mountain on the island to tell them what god was doing.
  • Analyzes how jonah is searching for the reason for his existence and what all these strange coincidences in his life are leading up to. john tells newt of his dream of climbing the mountain on san lorenzo
  • Narrates how jonah finds bokonon sitting by the roadwriting the last page of the books of boconon. if they were a younger man, they would write about human stupidity and climb to the top of mount mccabe.
  • Opines that cat's cradle is the history of "humanstupidity" bokonon spoke of, and this would "satisfy jonah'
  • Concludes that the symbol jonah dreamed of carrying was bokonon. through vonnegut's unique characters and his cynicalview of society, the pivotal role religion plays in everydaylife is brought into new perspective and its very validity is questioned.
  • Analyzes how the only people who take religion seriously are the themiserable villagers of san lorenzo who end up killing themselves because they refuse to question it.
  • Cites allen, william rodney, broer, lawrence r., and huber, chris. understanding kurt vonnegut.
  • Cites klinkowitz, jerome, reed, peter j. kurt vonnegut, jr., warner books, 1972; vit, marek.
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