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The picture painted of the world and humanity by Kurt Vonnegut in Cats' Cradle is not a positive one. It is not the utopia that so many of the novel's character's are striving for. It is a ridiculous world where truths are based on lies and the balance of good and evil is a manufactured state. If Vonnegut's attempt is to "poison minds with humanity… to encourage them to make a better world," it is only through showing the reader the follies of man, the foolishness we live with daily, that maybe we can change our outlook and make a "better world."
Within the 191 pages of Cat's Cradle Vonnegut manages to slam nearly every mode of life, every motivating factor, every convention of modern man. The strongest attacks are on our ways to knowledge: science and religion. Science is shown as a field led by madmen who do not comprehend the consequences of their research and creations. Religion is shown as being all lies developed to keep man happy. The characters of the novel are not unscathed either. Most are shown as greedy, uncompromising, and unsympathetic. They are led by unknown forces to do bad things, foolish things. Vonnegut "poisons" the reader with these examples of mankind. He examines, with wit and comedy, the selfish and foolish nature of humanity.
One can look at the actions of the characters and their actions, along with the consequences of those actions, and draw from it a conclusion about the futility of living. Vonnegut can certainly be seen as a cynic for the image that he gives us of humanity. He takes it one step further, though, by showing us all of the absurdity of our modern lives. He wants us to see that we live by lies. Even the words on the page are lies. There is no truth. And in this way we are not bound to live the life that Vonnegut portrays. There may be a better end for us than there is at the end of Cat's Cradle.
Maybe then it is possible for us, all of mankind, to make it a "better world." With Vonnegut's poisonous attacks on all our sacred systems he may be trying to show us that there is a better way to live. I will continue to argue that Cat's Cradle goes beyond satire, and gives us a truly cynical look at the world and humanity.
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"Possibilities for a Better World." 123HelpMe.com. 02 Apr 2020
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Cat's Cradle poisons our minds with humanity, because of the satirical nature in which it is written. Vonnegut uses the religion of Bokononism, to relate the humanist relationship between man and man. The religion itself is based on humanist ideas, in that all humans are a part of a group and that we all have our own purpose in life but we need other to fulfill that purpose and give us guidance and direction. Vonnegut uses this satire to distinguish the characteristics of these so-called groups, and to show us, the reader, that in order to make this world a better place to live we need to approach things with an open mind and realize that we are not the only ones on this earth. The positive attitude that was taken when the ice-nine hit, was that of well, we have all the frozen food we need and we can survive with that, and we have each other, which was all they really had in the first place. Now it's just colder!
I think that in reading, Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle we put aside the realism of our everyday lives and concentrate on the apocalyptic view of this book. I have not been able to read any other book written by him, but what I see in this one, is an author who is trying to show us that life is precious in it's own scary way. And when you're not looking it can all be gone, so you should take the time to meet people and to find your karass and expand yourself with knowledge. The apocalyptic concept of this work had me so scared that I wanted to go out and utilize my skills and work with people to better myself and them. I was so worried that I might not get a chance to do that. Vonnegut put that notion in my head. I was thinking that no one could have it rougher than I do, but people do and I should be fortunate enough to realize it and not take it for granted. Cat's Cradle sneaks up on you and you don't really know why you feel the way you do, but it really has a social impact when a writer can make such a fictional world ending, seem so real to the reader. It truly makes you think.
Kurt Vonnegut weaves satire and black humor effectively through his novel, Cat's Cradle. Webster's defines satire as "a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule and scorn." Encyclopedia Brittanica defines black humor as "a kind of desperate humour that seeks to induce laughter as the ultimate human response to the apparent meaninglessness and absurdity of existence."
The most obvious satire in the novel involves Bokonon and his view of religion. Vonnegut toys with the ideas of ritual and sermon that play such an important role in most religions. He almost seems to be making a mockery of the sacredness with which these are treated. For example, the Bokonist ritual of boko-maru is based on the following "Calypso";
"We will touch our feet, yes,
Yes, for all we're worth,
And we will love each other, yes,
Yes, like we love our Mother Earth."(109)
Vonnegut's satire of religion seems to be pointing to the fact that religion can be formed and perpetuated around any type of ritual or verse. No matter how basic or silly, as long as there are followers who are willing to believe in it and practice it, the religion will continue. Vonnegut appears to be making a statement about people's willingness to follow any religion that can give them the answers to how to live, how to die, and why they are here.
Vonnegut uses black humor to point out how bizarre and disturbing the human experience can be. When Phillip Castle's father looks over the sea of bodies ravaged by the bubonic plague and says, "Son, someday this will all be yours." The reader has to laugh, in spite of the horror. There is also some humor to be found in the sad, anticlimactic end that the Hundred Martyrs of Democracy faced. Sent to fight on the side of Democracy, on a ship bound for the US where they were to be armed and trained, their ship was sunk before they even had a chance to fight. Vonnegut's point to these sadly ironic yet amusing events is that everyone faces tragedy at some point or another in their lives. To see the humor in the most devastating situation means that you can go on, until the next painful experience.