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Cat's Cradle

Kurt Vonnegut

Chapters 23-34

Summary Chapters 23-34


Without keeping records of his discovery, Felix had secretly succeeded in fulfilling the general's request. He created ice-nine, an isotope of water with a melting point of 114 degrees Fahrenheit: an isotope that was solid at room temperature. Shortly before he died, on a Christmas vacation in Cape Cod, Felix revealed his discovery to his children. After his death, they each took a sliver of ice-nine for themselves. According to Bokonon, each karass has two wampeters, or pivots, around which they revolve. John believes that ice-nine became the wampeter for his karass the day he spoke with Asa Breed.

Miss Faust gave John a tour of Felix's lab, which was cluttered with cheap toys. A plaque on the wall stated that Felix's importance to mankind was incalculable. Miss Faust explained that no one really knew Felix because his main concern was "truth," not people. She found it hard to believe that truth alone was enough for a person. She said that Felix challenged her to name something that was absolutely true. She responded that God is love. However, Felix asked her what God and love were, and she was unable to answer. When Miss Faust and John took the elevator, John asked the elevator man, Knowles, if he knew the Hoenikker children. Knowles replied that they were "babies full of rabies."

John visited the cemetery in Ilium to photograph Felix's grave. Emily Hoenikker's tombstone, a massive monument 20 feet high and three feet wide, was engraved with the word "Mother," two poems by Frank and Angela, and the phrase "Baby Newt" underneath a baby's handprint. Felix's marker, on the other hand, was a small square engraved with the word "Father." John visited the tombstone shop owned by Asa Breed's brother, Martin Breed. Martin explained that a year after Emily's death, Frank and Angela came into his shop with baby Newt and purchased an enormous tombstone for their mother, using Felix's Nobel Prize money to pay. Felix hadn't bothered to take care of the marker himself.

Martin was in love with Emily when they were in high school. She was a marvelous musician, so he started playing the violin to impress her. However, his older brother Asa lured her away from him, and Felix later lured her away from Asa. Because Felix helped invent the atomic bomb, Martin scoffed at the prevailing notion that Felix was innocent and harmless. Martin mused that Felix was "born dead" because he had so little interest in living people, even his beautiful, unhappy wife. He then told John that Frank left Felix's funeral services before the burial was even finished. At the time John spoke with Martin, Frank was wanted by the F.B.I. in connection with a car theft ring in Florida. Martin didn't believe Frank could actually be a criminal. Before he left Ilium, Frank worked in Jack's Hobby Shop, and his only talent and interest was building models. He took a job in a model shop in Florida that was actually a front for the car theft ring. Martin believes Frank was murdered because he simply heard too much while working there.

Although Newt was a midget, Angela was over six feet tall. She was a sophomore in high school when Emily died. After Emily's death, Felix withdrew her from school to act as homemaker for the family. She never had any friends, so she used to lock herself in her room and play the clarinet along with her records.

Martin had a stone angel carved by his grandfather in his shop. When John asked if there was anyone left who could carve stone with that kind of skill, Martin told him that Asa's son could. Asa's son took up sculpting after he quit his job at the Research Laboratory.