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Cat's Cradle

Kurt Vonnegut

Chapters 106-114

Chapters 98-105

Chapters 115-127

Summary

Dr. von Koenigswald brushed Monzano's lips when he first saw the corpse. While talking to John, he washed his hands and instantly became the second man to die of ice-nine. Suddenly aware that ice-nine exists, many things became clear to John. He called Angela, Newt, and Frank into Monzano's bedroom and hysterically admonished them for their foolish mishandling of ice-nine. The siblings accepted his remonstrations, then Frank suggested that the floor of the room be blowtorched and the bodies burned to destroy the threat of more ice-nine. John realized that the Soviet and U.S. governments both had ice-nine in their possession, gained through Harrison, an employee in weapons research, and Zinka, a Soviet spy. Angela explained that Zinka stole the ice-nine from Newt. In The Books of Bokonon, Bokonon asks, "What can a thoughtful man hope for mankind on earth, given the experience of the past million years." He answers, "Nothing."

The Hoenikkers explained that Felix told them about ice-nine on the Christmas Eve shortly before he died. After making ice-nine in saucepans in the kitchen, he decided to rest before cleaning it up. He died while resting in a rocking chair. None of the three children could explain why they each took a piece of the ice-nine before cleaning their father's kitchen. Exhausted from the emotional toll of the crisis, John and the Hoenikkers decided to take a break to attend the ceremony in honor of the Hundred Martyrs.

At the ceremony, Horlick stood and gave a speech arguing against the patriotic parades that honor dead soldiers, because all people who die in war are simply murdered children. Instead, he suggested, humanity would do best to abhor the means by which the soldiers came to die and eschew all the false celebrations of honor and patriotism. The only way to justify such show and celebration, Horlick claimed, was to concentrate on reducing the stupidity and viciousness of humankind. Meanwhile, the San Lorenzo air force fired at the cardboard effigies floating in the sea.

Commentary

John criticized the Hoenikkers for their stupid, irresponsible handling of ice-nine. Angela and Newt criticized their brother for mishandling this deadly substance, but all three are guilty of the charge. In this portrayal of mutual recrimination, Vonnegut satirizes humanity's moral hypocrisy. The entire history of ice-nine is one of mishandling: Felix failed to clean up the mess of ice-nine in his kitchen before resting (and dying), allowing the ice-nine to fall into the hands of his children and endanger the world. Now, with everything out in the open, John and the Hoenikker's have a chance to destroy the ice-nine in their possession. Instead, they repeat the exact mistake of their father and decide to wait to clean up the mess until later. Bokonon's description of history is dead-on.

Horlick Minton's speech attacked patriotism as an irrational denial of the senselessness of wartime slaughter. Indeed, the Hundred Martyrs were senselessly murdered by a bigger, much stronger enemy. Ironically, they were sent to their pointless deaths in the name of "democracy" by a dictatorship. Patriotism is not about loving one's fellow man but defending a false illusion of collective national identity. Cat's Cradle asks, why should someone die as a sacrifice to an irrational grouping behavior? What are they protecting or defending but an empty idea?

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Incorrect information

by SuperBobKing, August 29, 2012

Ice-nine isn't an isotope of water. An isotope is an element with a different number of protons, and water is not an element and the water molecules are not altered. Ice-nine was just water in solid state only the molecules were put together differently than normal ice, which caused it to have a higher melting point.

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Incorrect Name

by tapmaster88, October 02, 2013

The name of Asa Breed's brother is not Martin, it is Marvin. Check Chapter 31.

Something I thought was interesting...

by possibly_troodon, March 28, 2014

It seems like almost every aspect of science has an opposite in religion and vice versa. Science is a search for truth, and Bokononism is nothing but "foma." Likewise, the scientific documents are completely incomprehensible to the secretaries in the Research Laboratory who transcribe them, and Bokononism is the one real comfort to the people of San Lorenzo.

I especially like how the contrast stands out in the characters of Felix Hoenikker and Bokonon. Felix is typically described as "innocent," yet his inventions, the atom bomb and i... Read more

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