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  1. More by Kurt Vonnegut
  2. 'Cat's Cradle' - the meaning and origin of this phrase

When John and the other travelers arrive on the island, they are greeted by "Papa" Monzano, his beautiful adopted daughter Mona, and around five thousand San Lorenzans.

More by Kurt Vonnegut

It becomes clear that "Papa" Monzano is extremely ill, and he intends to name Franklin Hoenikker his successor. Franklin, who finds it hard to talk with people, is uncomfortable with this arrangement and abruptly hands the presidency to John, who grudgingly accepts. Franklin also suggests that John should marry Mona. The dictator later uses ice-nine to commit suicide rather than succumb to his inoperable cancer. Consistent with the properties of ice-nine, the dictator's corpse instantly turns into solid ice at room temperature.

'Cat's Cradle' - the meaning and origin of this phrase

This is followed by the freezing of Dr. Schlichter von Koenigswald, "Papa" Monzano's doctor and a former S. Auschwitz physician, who accidentally ingests ice-nine while performing an examination of Monzano's corpse. John and the Hoenikkers plan to gather the bodies of both Monzano and his physician in order to ritualistically burn them on a funeral pyre, thereby eliminating the traces of ice-nine.

They also begin systematically cleansing the room with various heating methods, taking the utmost care not to leave any trace of ice-nine behind.


It is here where John inquires as to how the ice-nine came into "Papa" Monzano's possession. The Hoenikkers explain that when they were young, their father would riddle them with the concept of ice-nine. One day, they find their father has died taking a break from freezing and unfreezing ice-nine to test its properties. With the sweep of a cloth, Frank Hoenikker collects residual amounts of ice-nine from a cooking pan, as was the various collection and examination methods of their father when creating the substance. A dog licks the cloth and also instantly freezes.

Witnessing this, the young Hoenikkers finally deduce the properties of ice-nine. They collectively cannot determine who had what part in gathering the ice-nine, but chunks of the substance were chipped from the cooking pan supply and placed in mason jars, then later in thermoses. John and the Hoenikkers pause the ice-nine decontamination to attend John's inauguration festivities. During the festivities, San Lorenzo's small air force presents a brief air show, but one of the airplanes malfunctions and crashes into the dictator's seaside palace, causing his still-frozen body to tumble into the ocean; all the water in the world's seas, rivers, and groundwater turns into ice-nine, sure to kill almost all life in a few days.

The freezing of the world's oceans immediately causes violent storms and tornadoes to ravage the landscape, and John manages to escape with Mona to a secret bunker. Upon hearing the storms subside after several days, they emerge. Exploring the island and looking for survivors, they discover a mass grave where all the surviving San Lorenzans had killed themselves with ice-nine, on the facetious advice of Bokonon.

Displaying a mix of grief and resigned amusement, Mona kills herself as well.

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A shocked John is later found by survivors an American couple he had met on the plane to San Lorenzo and Felix Hoenikker's two sons , and he lives in a cave for several months, during which time he writes a memoir revealed to be the novel itself. The book ends by his meeting a weary Bokonon, who is contemplating what the last words of The Books of Bokonon should be. Bokonon states that if he were younger, he would have climbed to the top of Mt.

McCabe, placed a book about human stupidity at the peak, and, through the administration of ice-nine, "make a statue of myself, lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who"; it is strongly implied that John is inspired to do just that, with the novel as the "book about human stupidity. Many of Vonnegut's recurring themes are prevalent in Cat's Cradle , most notably the issues of free will and man's relation to technology.

The latter is demonstrated by the development and exploitation of ice-nine, which is conceived with indifference but is misused to disastrous ends. In his address to the American Physical Society, Vonnegut describes the inspiration behind ice-nine and its creator as the type of "old-fashioned scientist who isn't interested in people," and draws connections to nuclear weapons.

More topically, Cat's Cradle takes the threat of nuclear destruction in the Cold War as a major theme.

The Cuban Missile Crisis , in which world powers collided around a small Caribbean island, bringing the world to the brink of mutual assured destruction , occurred in , and much of the novel can be seen as allegorical. Like most of Vonnegut's work, irony, black humor and parody are used heavily throughout.

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Cat's Cradle , despite its relatively short length, contains discrete chapters. Vonnegut himself has claimed that his books "are essentially mosaics made up of a whole bunch of tiny little chips GE hired scientists and let them do pure research, and his job was to interview these scientists and find good stories about their research. Vonnegut felt that the older scientists were indifferent about the ways their discoveries might be used. Felix Hoenikker. The Republic of San Lorenzo is a fictional country where much of the book's second half takes place. San Lorenzo is a tiny, rocky island nation located in the Caribbean Sea , positioned in the relative vicinity of Puerto Rico.

San Lorenzo has only one city, its seaside capital of Bolivar. The country's form of government is a dictatorship , under the rule of ailing president "Papa" Monzano, who is a staunch ally of the United States and a fierce opponent of communism. No legislature exists. The infrastructure of San Lorenzo is described as being dilapidated, consisting of worn buildings, dirt roads, an impoverished populace, and having only one automobile taxi running in the entire country. The language of San Lorenzo is a fictitious English-based creole language that is referred to as "the San Lorenzan dialect.

Its flag consists of a U. Marine Corps corporal's chevrons on a blue field presumably the flag was updated, since in the s Marine Corps rank insignia did not include crossed rifles. Its currency is named corporals, at a rate of two corporals for every United States dollar ; both the flag and the monetary unit are named after U.

McCabe, along with accomplice Lionel Boyd Johnson from Tobago , together threw out the island's governing sugar company, and after a period of anarchy , proclaimed a republic. San Lorenzo also has its own native religion, Bokononism , a religion based on enjoying life through believing "foma", harmless lies, and taking encouragement where you can. Bokononism, founded by McCabe's accomplice Boyd Johnson pronounced "Bokonon" in San Lorenzan dialect , however, is outlawed — an idea Bokonon himself conceived, since forbidding the religion would only make it spread quicker.

Bokononists are liable to be punished by being impaled on a hook, but Bokononism privately remains the dominant religion of nearly everyone on the island, including the leaders who outlaw it. Officially, however, San Lorenzo is a Christian nation. The religion of the people of San Lorenzo, called Bokononism , encompasses concepts unique to the novel, with San Lorenzan names such as:.

And you better take it lightly, because if you don't you'll go off weeping and shoot yourself". In , the board of Strongsville, Ohio banned the book without stating an official reason, although notes from the meeting include references to it being "completely sick" and "garbage". However, this ban was overturned in by the US District Court. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the Kurt Vonnegut novel. Give me something to see.

Something to make me brave and kind and happy and healthy. There is no cat. There is no cradle. There is no Santa Claus.