Image from: Cat’s Cradle, Wikipedia.com
Kurt Vonnegut is not for the simple-minded reader. He overlaps recurring themes in his novels and you really have to read critically to understand what point he is trying to get across. In the first few chapters of Cat’s Cradle, Vonnegut reintroduces Ilium, New York. For those who have read Player Piano, Ilium is a major city with two sides to it: the humans and the machines. The narrator, Jonah, is writing a letter to the son of the man who created the atomic bomb. As also seen in previous Vonnegut novels, the setting of wartime is one that he hardly deviates from. In Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy is in the midst of the bombs at Dresden. In Player PIano, the humans are planning to rebel and war against the machines. Since most of his novels were written during the time of war, you can see where he gets his inspiration from. Within the first few chapters, we learn a little about Jonah, and his conversion to a made-up religion called Bokononism. We learn that this religion is made up of people being told lies and then being told that it is the truth, kind of like a bunch of beautiful lies that they blindly believe, like in 1984 by George Orwell, when people are convinced that 2+2=5. Although this is false, the people still accept it to be true and harmless. Each Bokononist’s life intertwines with others, and this group is called a karass. Also in the first few chapters, we learn about the man who created the atomic bomb and the son’s experience the day it was dropped. He was six years old so he only really remembers what others have told him about it. He remembers his father playing with some string, creating a cat’s cradle, hence the title. I don’t yet know the significance of this string game yet, and I probably never will due to the fact that Vonnegut’s writing can sometimes be hard to understand. In the story, on the day the bomb drops, Felix Hoenikker is in his office playing with the string. His son, Newton is playing with his toys. Felix runs over and shows his son the cat’s cradle and tries to play and sing with him. Newton finds this strange, as his father has hardly ever shown an interest in him, and he ends up hurting his father’s feelings. Vonnegut has always had a flair for satirical works, making dark things look humorous, making it sometimes difficult to sense the sarcasm or sensitivity to certain things in his books. be on the lookout for Part 2 of Cat’s Cradle coming in the next day or two!