Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle

Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle

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Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle vs Our Assumptions Regarding War, Progress, and Religion


If one of Vonnegut's purposes for writing is "to poison minds with humanity" (qtd. by Scholes, per Griffin), then the weapon of choice in Cat's Cradle, is satire. Cat's Cradle "poison[s] minds" only by revealing the toxins that are already present in the system. Vonnegut's brand of satire serves as a sort of syrup of ipecac on human folly, and if we are "to make a better world" as he would have it, we should understand how truly virulent human enterprise can be.

Cat's Cradle holds no punches on conventionally held beliefs and opinions. Whether in regard to religion or science, business or government, sex or war, all topics are at the mercy of Vonnegut's lampooning. The issue of religion is certainly a major target for Vonnegut, and he ingeniously uses irony to satirize religious folly. Cat's Cradle introduces the new, non-religious religion of Bokononism, which, according to its own doctrine, is entirely based on lies (14). By merely asserting that Bokononism is a more truthful religion because it is based on lies, it becomes as error-ridden as any other religion, including Christianity. An example of this is in Chapter 3, not coincidentally entitled "Folly." Here, we are introduced to an Episcopalian woman who claims to "understand God and His Ways of Working perfectly" (13). When John (or Jonah) discovers that this woman cannot read a simple blueprint for a doghouse, he sarcastically suggests that she ask someone to get God to explain it to her, and in her anger at his effrontery, the woman fires him. John ends the chapter by stating "she was a fool, and so am I, and so is anyone who thinks he sees what God is Doing" (13). All of this is correct according to Bokonon, we are reminded (13), but we mustn't forget that Bokononism is a religion based on lies.

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Just as he attacks religion, Vonnegut assaults many things human in Cat's Cradle. His method leaves me, as a member of the human race, feeling fallacious and somewhat stupid. Assumptions regarding war, progress, selfishness, religion, and even altruism, must be re-examined upon reading this book. I believe this is the "poison" Vonnegut wants us to swallow, and this is the medicine that will affect change.
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