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Cat's Cradle

Kurt Vonnegut

Chapters 98-105

Summary Chapters 98-105


Although Monzano had asked John to kill Bokonon, he wanted Bokononist last rites. Dr. von Koenigswald agreed to perform the rites, stating that he was a bad scientist because he was willing to do anything to comfort another person. Like Bokononists, he believed that all religions were based on lies. While performing boku-maru with Monzano, he intoned the legend of humanity's creation while Monzano repeated the chant: God demanded that the mud sit up and take notice of all his creations. The mud sat up and counted itself lucky and praised God for all His wonderful creations. The mud felt unimportant next to God, so, to make itself feel better, it felt superior to the mud that did not sit up and take notice. The mud that awoke enjoyed meeting other interesting mud that awoke, and all the awakened mud eagerly looked forward to finding their karasses and wampeters.

When John asked Frank for advice in announcing his presidency, Frank refused to offer any help beyond what his job as minister of technology demanded. John realized that, in acquiescing to the job of president, he had given Frank everything he wanted: comfort and honor without any of the burden of human responsibility. For a while, John considered ending the charade that had existed on San Lorenzo for so long. He wanted to outlaw the hook, allow Bokononism, and place Bokonon himself in a government office. Then, John realized that neither he nor Bokonon could provide adequate food, housing, and social services, so he decided to outlaw Bokononism just as the previous Presidents had. He and Bokonon would continue to provide the people with the only thing they could give--a never-ending battle between good and evil.

The ceremony in honor of the Hundred Martyrs began. The tables were stocked with albatross meat and "native rum," which was actually acetone. The meat made John ill, and he declined to drink the rum, although Lowe, insensitive to the smell of acetone, partook heavily. In the sea, floated a number of cardboard cutouts depicting Stalin, Fidel Castro, Hitler, Mussolini, Karl Marx, the German Kaiser, and Mao. At an appointed time, the San Lorenzo airforce would fly over and open fire on the cardboard leaders. Lowe approved of the practice. He considered the cutouts to represent every possible enemy of freedom.

No one at the ceremony knew that John would be announced as the next President. Julian and Philip were bewildered that they had been invited, since Monzano had long been a declared enemy of theirs. Philip told John that he was considering calling a general strike of all writers. John replied that a writer was obligated "to produce beauty and enlightenment at top speed." Therefore, a general strike of writers would be akin to a general strike of firemen and policemen. People would die if they did not have "the consolation of literature."

Mona exhibited no distress at Monzano's impending death, nor did she make any public display of affection toward John. He wondered whether she was the epitome of "female spirituality" or simply frigid. Frank explained to Lowe and Hazel that Bokonon set himself against science, much to their shock and dismay. Science, in the form of doctors, had saved the lives of Hazel's mother and Lowe.

The albatross made John very ill, and he retreated to the bathroom next to Monzano's suite. A very distressed Dr. von Koenigswald ran out of Monzano's bedroom hysterically demanding to know what the small container around Monzano's neck contained. Apparently, Monzano had eaten its contents and died, instantly turning into a solid statue. John entered the bedroom to see Monzano's rigid body, his eyes and lips covered in a blue-white frost. Immediately, John realized that Monzano must have swallowed ice-nine. Noting Bokonon's ironic statement that everything should be recorded so that human beings avoid making the same mistakes as their predecessors, John wrote that Monzano was the first man in the world to die of ice-nine. John then notes that Bokonon's ironic statement was actually an assertion that writing and reading history is a futile prospect, since men always did repeat the mistakes of their predecessors.