Social Commentary in Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle
Kurt Vonnegut's science fiction novel, Cat's Cradle, is chocked full of social commentary, satirical humor, and an overall pessimistic view on American Society. Through the fictional religion Bokononism Vonnegut introduces us to John, a young man who is writing a book about the day the atomic bomb was dropped. His research led him to the late Dr. Felix Hoenikker, a brilliant scientist who was deemed the "father of the atomic bomb." Anxious to learn more about Hoenikker from his surviving children, John followed them to the impecunious island of San Lorenzo. In San Lorenzo John was introduced to Bokononism, the dominant (yet illegal) religion of the island; which among its many bizarre features, openly proclaimed that it was a total lie. While on the island, John also learned more about Ice Nine, the final project that Hoenikker created. Ice Nine ( a simple rearrangement of water molecules) had the ability to freeze instantly any body of water, due to a complex crystalline formation. Although the ice was to be Hoenikker's great gift to the military to freeze swamps during battle, so they could move troops more efficiently; it ended up being a creation more fatal than the atomic bomb itself. Subsequently John's adventures came to a harsh, if strangely appropriate end caused by the selfishness of human nature. The moral of the story, laced with deception, ignorance, self-indulgence, and control is that life is entirely worthless and fails to serve a purpose. Yet, the comic relief and vivacity of the novel gives it power and charm, curiously contrasted with its depressing meaning.
In the beginning of the novel, the reader is introduced to the deceased Felix Hoenikker, a man who was full of curiosity and had an uncanny regard for everything scientific. Not only was he the father of the atomic bomb, but shortly before his death he created the destructive Ice Nine. With the ability to freeze anything liquid it was...
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