Fact and fiction in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle Essay
Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, which was published in 1963, is amazingly easy and even enjoyable to read. A reader is not made to search through a novel thoroughly to find themes the author dwells upon. These are, as in most Vonnegut’s novels, messages pertaining to death, religion, and apocalypse. Fact and fiction are tightly intertwined here; existing religions and philosophies are connected with new ones, created by author’s imagination. Thus, actually existing phenomena are Christianity, science, and nihilism, the author being able to provide his reader with the entire spectrum of doctrines.
Fictitious aspect is represented with major concept of the whole book, a religious phenomenon called Bokonism. Besides, Felix Hoenikker’s substance that can freeze water at considerably higher temperatures is another example of author’s fiction. It is capable of capable of freezing the world over in seconds and bears the name of ‘ice-nine’.There is an entire religious sect, called Bokononism, created throughout the text; this religion is built on absurdity, lies, and irony. John-Jonah, a freelance writer, while narrating a story characterizes Bokononism as being, “free form as an amoeba” (Vonnegut, 3). It is as unpredictable and boundless as the unconscious itself. Vonnegut created a very well highly detailed religion within this novel.
He covers every important aspect and develops a book of worship comparable to the Holy Bible in the way that it provides a way of living, rules of life (similar to “sins” in the Christian religion), and even a God. Bokonon’s main ideas though were that nothing is to be held more holy that man himself, and life is pre-determined.Nihilism runs counter to science concerning the hard facts of reality, representing chaos and order respectively, and both can be considered Christianity’s opposites.Then, Christianity is identified by the author as an allegory of repression. It is done through one of Jonah’s encounters.
When Jonah comes across two construction workers secretly conducting Boko-Maru, the Bokononist tradition of pressing bare feet together, he notes that, “They were expecting to be killed” in response to their fear (Vonnegut, 157). Their fear is due to the fact that the totalitarian Christian rulers of San Lorenzo outlaw Bokononism and threaten its followers with death. Metaphorically, this example epitomizes the duality of conscious and unconscious.
The ruling authorities (conscious) brutally seek to punish and repress the playful, Bokononist San Lorenzans (unconscious) by means of execution (pre-conscious), because they are threatened by their fantasizing. Despite the grave consequence of playing, or conducting Boko-Maru, the Bokononists continue to practice their tradition.Indeed, the not-quite nihilism of the novel’s close is a product of the tension between the religion of Bokononism, which advocates formulating and believing sacred lies, and the vision granted to the dwarfed son of the Father of the Bomb of the emptiness behind all lies, however sacred. The voice of the White Dwarf and the Black Prophet answer each other inconclusively throughout; creating an awkward ambiguity.But, as ever in Vonnegut, something more is presented than the irresolvable conflict of mutually exclusive theories; namely, the possibility of actual joy. John, at any rate, is revealed as having experienced two great joys before his tale is told: one slow and long-continued, as he learns who are the other members of his karass, the handful of others in the world with whom he must work out the pattern of his destiny: one intense and momentary, as he plays footsie with the blonde Negress, Mona, whom he, and everyone else, loves: their naked soles touching in the ecstatic union called by Bokononists “Boko-maru.
” Cat’s Cradle is then a book about loving.Once again, the central science fiction ingredient in the plot of this story is a throwaway device. The few absentminded steps necessary to set the would-be amphibian walking out of a body have about the same plausibility as Barnhouse’s aligning his brain cells. The “how” of this central phenomenon is not important–Vonnegut needs only to establish the situation of “what if” humans could escape their bodies? It is the kind of “what if” comic situation he delights in creating, as it can be seen in Cat’s Cradle’s Ice-Nine, and in which science fiction serves him so well.Cat’s Cradle confronts not only religion, but man’s destructive nature and his desire to destruct the world, in very simple manner. At the book’s close, John-Jonah lies frozen for all eternity, his thumb to his nose and a history of the world clasped to his side.
He has learned this sacred gesture of contempt for the God or not-God behind the universe from Bokonon, a Black Prophet who is the most impressive rebel-guru; and who, just before his own suicide, composed the final sentence of his Scriptures, as if for John-Jonah’s special benefit: “If I were a younger man, I would write a history of human stupidity; and I would climb to the top of Mount McCabe . . . and I would make a statue of myself, lying on my back, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.” (Vonnegut 191).
BibliographyVONNEGUT, Kurt. Cat’s Cradle. New York, Delta Books, 1963.;