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Cat's Cradle

Kurt Vonnegut

Chapters 35-43

Chapters 23-34

Chapters 44-55

Summary

John interviewed Jack, the proprietor of Jack's Hobby Shop. Like Martin, he believed that the gangsters involved with the car theft ring in Florida murdered Frank. He showed John an amazingly detailed model city that Frank built. Tears came to Jack's eyes as he expressed anger and grief that anyone could have murdered someone who created such a masterpiece.

While John was visiting Ilium, he allowed Sherman Krebbs, a destitute poet, to live in his apartment in New York. When he returned, he discovered that Krebbs had incurred hundreds of dollars in long distance phone calls, destroyed his apartment, and killed his cat. John believes that Krebbs was what Bokononism termed a wrang-wrang, someone who forces another person to recognize that a particular line of reasoning is completely absurd. John credits Krebbs with pushing him away from a philosophy of nihilism.

Later, John found a tourism advertisement in the Sunday Times for San Lorenzo, a small island republic. The ad depicted Mona Aamons Monzano, the beautiful adopted daughter of the San Lorenzo's dictator, "Papa" Monzano. John instantly fell in love with Mona. Next to "Papa" Monzano's photo was a picture of San Lorenzo's Minister of Science and Progress, Major General Franklin Hoenikker.

An essay in the advertisement, which John assumed was ghostwritten for Frank, told of Frank's lone voyage on a luxury craft from Cuba. He was starving when he found beautiful San Lorenzo. He disembarked from the craft, only to be jailed when it was discovered that he had no passport. "Papa" Monzano visited him in jail to find out if he was the son of Felix Hoenikker. When Frank revealed that he was, he was welcomed with open arms.

John took a job to write an article about Julian Castle, an American millionaire who founded a charity hospital, the House of Hope and Mercy, for San Lorenzo's destitute citizens. By the time Castle was forty, he had achieved a reputation as an alcoholic womanizer with a penchant for driving too fast and spending millions frivolously. Although he went through five wives, his only child was Philip Castle, the proprietor of the Casa Mona, the hotel where John planned to stay in San Lorenzo. John fantasized that Mona would fall in love with him during his stay there.

Horlick Minton, the new American ambassador to San Lorenzo, and his wife, Claire, sat next to John on the plane. John believes they were a duprass, a karass consisting of only two people, because they were completely enamored of one another. They had no interest in John at all despite his attempts to make small talk. Therefore, John visited the airplane's bar where he met H. Lowe Crosby, and his wife, Hazel. Crosby was fed up with the United States' tight labor regulations; he was moving his bicycle manufacturing business to San Lorenzo.

Hazel, a native of Indiana, was delighted to discover that John was also from Indiana. She insisted that he call her "Mom." She declared that she and her husband had met a lot of Hoosiers in charge of important things during their travels. John explains that Hazel's fascination with Hoosiers was a classic example of a granfalloon, a false karass. Political parties and nation-states are other examples of granfalloons.

Hazel expressed relief that San Lorenzo was Christian and that the citizens spoke English. Lowe attributed San Lorenzo's low crime rate to the one-size-fits-all punishment of "the hook," where criminals were impaled as an example to the populace. Lowe didn't think the hook would work in a democracy, but he suggested public hangings as a deterrent for juvenile delinquency in the United States. Hazel and Lowe saw the hook in a London wax museum called the Chamber of Horrors. The museum also contained a wax statue depicting a man who was roasted alive for murdering his son. It was later discovered that he was innocent.

Commentary

Jack grieved that anyone could kill Frank because he had an astonishing creative capacity for building models. However, Frank's grief is later made ironic. The reader discovers that Frank himself carelessly gave a seed of ice-nine to the dictator of San Lorenzo and that Frank had been sleeping with Jack's wife for years before leaving for San Lorenzo. Frank viewed the real world almost in the same way he viewed his model of it. Like a god, he arranged things to his pleasure in the real world by buying a comfortable post as Major General on San Lorenzo with a substance that ended up killing most of life on earth. He approached the real world with the same vain, selfish, careless lack of concern that characterizes the absolute power a child wields over an imaginary model of the world -- or a bottle filled with insects.

Although John is the narrative authority in Cat's Cradle expresses consistent moral outrage at the behavior of the Hoenikkers, in many ways, he acted as carelessly and irrationally as they do. He trusted Krebbs, and Krebbs wrecked his apartment. He fell in "love" with Mona simply because he saw her picture in an advertisement. Because he equates sexual attraction with "love," it would be a mistake to see him as a more sensitive person than some of the other characters.

Vonnegut continues to parody our accepted ideas about morality with Julian Castle. After spending most of his adulthood drinking, spending recklessly, and womanizing, Julian became a philanthropist. However, his fortune was derived from his company, Castle Sugar Corporation, which had long held a plant on San Lorenzo. The laborers were beaten by brutal overseers, and they were not paid for their work. A charity hospital is pocket change for Julian. His generous gesture, which gains him acclaim and accolades, is not really all that generous.

Lowe and Hazel Crosby are parodies of vain, arrogant, greedy Americans. Lowe wants to move his business to San Lorenzo where employers are not required to adequately pay or treat their workers well. He wants to follow in the model of Julian Castle. Lowe believes in brutalizing and killing people for minor crimes. He even approves of San Lorenzo's policy of capital punishment for all crimes, no matter how minor. The Crosbys represent the dangers of dogmatic religious and national identity. They are friendly with John because he is "one of them," but they are not willing to extend their friendship to non-Christian, non-American people. Hazel is afraid of people who are different, so she takes comfort in the fact that San Lorenzo is reportedly a Christian, English-speaking country. Hazel's pleasure at discovering that John is a Hoosier is a parody of the irrational grouping behaviors of human beings. Political parties and nations are here revealed as irrational, despite the fact that they cause a great deal of violent conflict in the world.

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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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29 out of 55 people found this helpful

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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4 out of 5 people found this helpful

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