BC: "Where's my good old gang done gone?" I heard a sad man say. I whispered in that sad man's ear, "Your gang's done gone away." -Bokonon
FC: The Cat's Cradle By Kurt Vonnegut | Project by Lily Ireton | Honors American Literature
2: Plot Details | Jonah, a young journalist and author, begins this novel by explaining that he wants to write a book. Dr. Felix Hoenikker was the subject (who would be better than the man that created the atomic bomb?). Innocently, Jonah began his adventure. He embarked upon a search for information in Ilium, the dead doctor's hometown. He meets up with one of Hoenikker's colleagues and begins to understand Hoenikker. But there is more to the man than everyone knows. Along with creating the atomic bomb, Hoenikker created a special type of ice, ice nine, that freezes at room temperature. At first, the benefits seem amazing but the risk is also great. When the ice touches normal water, it induces the molecules to restructure and create more frozen ice nine. Brilliant! Or is it? What if the ice was to touch the ocean, what would happen to life on earth. Upon realizing this, Jonah travels to San Lorenzo, a distant Caribbean island in order to track down Frank Hoenikker, one of the doctors surviving sons. The descendants have split the one ice sample amongst themselves after their father's death and people will to anything to get their hands on it. Jonah easily acclimates to life on the island, hoping to land the girl of his dreams, Mona, a simply symbol of feminine beauty. The island even has its own special religion called Bokononism. But Jonah must not let everything distract him from his ultimate goal: finding and destroying every sample of ice nine before something terrible occurs (and he also wants to finish his book).
3: Themes | 1.Things turn out poorly for those in the wrong place at the wrong time. 2. Often, the smallest things have the largest influence on a situation. 3. Happiness is an illusion that is brought on by comforting lies. 4. Older generations often leave unpleasant situations for the younger ones to deal with. | Setting | Main Conflicts | An early glimpse of the natives of San Lorenzo | 1. The bombing of Hiroshima. 2. Friction between Jonah and a scientist he is trying to interview. 3. Dr. Hoenikker was crushed under the expectations of society. 4. There is a conflict between Bokonon and Christianity. 5. Jonah attempts to find the ice nine in order prevent the destruction of the world. | Jonah began in Ilium, a small town where Dr. Hoenikker worked. He visited various places such as the model shop, the laboratory, and the cemetery. From there, he briefly returned home to his trashed apartment. Jonah left soon after to head to San Lorenzo where most of the story takes place. In between these two places, there are a few meaningful conversations on the flight to the island. THe entire story takes place over about a month and is depicts a time no more than a decade from the time of the Hiroshima bombing. | There are few natives of San Lorenzo. The country is poor and most people work low end jobs such as taxi driving. They are characterized by their dark skin and thick accents. Most are utterly submissive under the rule of Jonah, Frank, and "Papa".
4: John But call me Jonah | "A karass ignores national, institutional, occupational, familial, and class boundaries" (Vonnegut 2). | Anyone unable to understand how a useful religion can be founded on lies will not understand this book either. | President of the Republic of San Lorenzo | As part of the Bokonon religion, new words are invented. Bokonon believes that people are somehow divided into groups but it is not good to try to analyze them or form a group yourself. Someone may be in you group or karass if they are tangled in your life even if you have nothing in common. Despite my firm Christian beliefs, the sociology of Bokononism resembles truth. | This quote captures the pretext of both the Bokonon religion and the book itself. Bokonon admits that religion is just a bunch of lies designed to offer people comfort. Thus, his own religion is openly untrue. Bokonon doesn't seem to understand much of what he preaches. | Who wouldn't want to arrive in a small island country and be crowned as president only a few days after. Especially when part of the deal is marrying Mona, the girl of my dreams. I wasn't going to pass on the offer to ditch my job as a writer/journalist and lead a Caribbean Island nation. Finally, the respect I deserve.
5: My dearest Mona | The Day the World Ended | Jonah | San Lorenzo | I fell in love with the beautiful Mona seconds after seeing her in an ad featuring San Lorenzo. I decided to visit the island to do an interview with Julian Castle, the local millionaire but my secret agenda included a glimpse of Mona as well as a vacation. I can't believe she is going to marry Frank Hoenikker.I feel as if I will die without her. I only hope that I become president and she will be mine alone. | While I was away, a man named Krebbs, a poor poet, lived in my apartment. When I returned from Ilium, my house was a wreck. Even my beloved cat was left dead with a "meow" sign hung around his neck. His nihilistic principles and lack of morality lead me to dislike the man (not to mention he ruined my house). | I traveled by plane to San Lorenzo and it is a journey I won't soon forget. This small memento captures the entire trip. I met both the Minton's and the Lowe's on the plane. I believe this represents embracing my destiny and also my true motive to find Mona and make her my wife. | I began my adventure by researching for my book, The Day the World Ended. It is designed to plot the life of Felic Hoenikker, the father of the atomic bomb. My research lead me to the children of the scientist and eventually the island of San Lorenzo where I was utterly surprised by the occurrences in the isolated civilization. I also must continue the search for ice nine: Hoenikker's true legacy.
6: Bokonon | Wanted | Bokonon Reward offered | "Foma! Lies!" he wrote. "A pack of foma!" | To increase the popularity of his new religion, Bokonon decided to make himself an outlaw and have Christian's frown upon the religion. He believed that by making it forbidden, people would always want to join. His predictions were correct (except in my case) and both Mona and "Papa" were openly Bokononist. Flyers with his image and fingerprints are circulated around the country. | Bokonon acknowledges that his religion is based on lies that are written to make people feel better. He believes that this what all religions are like and he has no problem admitting it. Bokonon often used words as if he was making up his own language. A "Foma" is a harmless lie. I find it hard to believe he is such a beloved man. | This diploma is the only relic from Bokonon's past. His original name was Lionel Boyd Johnson and he graduated from the London School of Economics. He changed his name to Bokonon because that was what "Johnson" sounded like in the thick accent of the native San Lorenzo people. I can't fathom why he is such a celebrity. | Lionel Boyd Johnson | London School of Economics
7: Philip Castle | "Papa" Monzano, he's so very bad, But without "Papa" I would be so sad; Because without "Papa's" badness, Tell me, it you would, How could wicked old Bokonon Ever, ever look good? | This hook is reserved for Bokonon | As a type of punishment, those who were members of the Bokonon religion were hung upon a hook. The metal passed through their torso and they hung there until their death. One of the three hooks has a sign proclaiming that it is reserved for Bokonon. Bokonon himself asked for them to be made when the government was founded to give his religion some enticement. | The books of Bokonon are written by himself and most are in the form of poems that are read to provide spiritual comfort (what a hippie). In the case of this one, it is very specific to the land and it displays Bokonon's ability to profit from making himself an outlaw. Most of the poems rhyme and this one shows how loosely Bokonon can poke fun at people. | This was the small lifeboat that brought Bokonon to the island of San Lorenzo. After he created his namesake religion, the boat became a relic. It was painted over with gold and "Papa"Monzano used it as a bed. It was predicted that the boat would sail again at the end of the world. How can a young religion have such prophets?
8: Dr. Hoenikker | "I don't think he was knowable." -Miss Faust | The Doctor's toy collection | Hiroshima | Ice Nine | I once asked Dr. Hoenikker's secretary what he was like. She replied with this quote. Her main point was that the things that mattered most to many people weren't the biggest parts of his life. His work and his toy collection matter the most to him after the death of his wife. | Pictured are Dr. Hoenikker's two worst legacies. He was the inventor of the atomic bomb and the ice nine that he created in order to keep Marines out of the mud had the potential to freeze up the whole world's water supply. They show him to be a cold man who should obviously be kept away from explosives and valuable things at all costs. Both had the potential to destroy the world. | When Jonah visited Dr. Hoenikker's office, he was surprised to find it trashed and filled with small toys and trinkets. Hoenikker's secretary, Miss Faust, expressed that these were the true pieces that inspired him. He frequented the toy shop that was a few blocks from his work. | Dear Jonah, | My father always scared me even as a young child. I thought he had the ugliest face and when he leaned in to share the cat's cradle, a began to cry. | Early on, I sent Newt Hoenikker a letter to ask about how his father acted on the day of the bomb drop. Newt replied with a letter that told little about the bomb but lots about what happened that day and specifically about what he remembers about the cat's cradle that his father showed to him. Newt made his opinions of his father's looks no secret.
9: The Hoenikker Children | Newt never understood the interest in the Cat's Cradle game. He references it as a type of deception found in the world. He often says, "Where's the cat? Where's the cradle?" I agree with his point and I am beginning to wonder if Bokonon is right. | Secret Agent X-9 | Secret Agent X-9 was an "affectionate" nickname for Frank Hoenikker. He hated it all his life and complained to me when I arrived on the island. Frank always acted like he was between two places and he had secrets causing the name to originate from a comic book spy. | Angela Hoenikker was one of the hero of the atomic bomb in that she guided the family along after Hoenikker's wife died. When she felt too stressed out, she would play her clarinet to some records. Jonah once heard her play and she was beautiful. I only heard her once yet the beauty will remain with me forever. | The Hoenikker family is especially unusual looking. Newt, the youngest child is a midget. Angela, the oldest, is over six feet tall and not very attractive. Frank is skinny and of average height yet he is not taller that Angela. | Frank was a cruel young boy. He used to trap bugs in boxes and shake them to see if they would fight. His dominant nature was clear at a young age and I often reference him as the child that played with bugs. He isn't very manipulative in the present but he still likes to feel dominant and assertive over people.
10: Horlick and Claire Minton | H. Lowe and Hazel "Mom" Crosby | "Americans are forever searching for love in forms it never takes, in places it can never be. It must have something to do with the vanished frontier." -Claire Minton | The Crosby's wanted to move their bicycle shop to San Lorenzo to avoid unions ruining their company again. Jonah thought it was a terrible idea to abuse the people of San Lorenzo when he met them on the plane. Once he became president, his interests changed. He thought it would be good for their industry on the island. | Hazel and H. Lowe insist on creating false karasses. Hazel becomes so excited to discover that I was from Indiana and she began to look for other Hoosiers on their plane. Hazel insists that other Hoosiers coll her "Mom" because she feels like they are a family. The Crosbys represent the American style, pride, and attitude. | This quote from Claire was why her husband lost a job in the State Department. Her scandalous letter does contain some truth. Can happiness really exist? Oh no. I am starting to sound like Bokonon...his words ring true. | Claire used to work as an indexer. She wrote indices for many books and she noted that you can tell a lot about a person from how they structure their own index. In a way, she is expressing that the smaller events of a persons life as well as their actions define them. I was trying to learn about Mona through Phillip Castle's index.
11: "Papa" Monzano | Mona | This is the only instrument that Mona knows how to play. She plays at all the national festivals and is revered as the national musician. I watched her practice while he stayed in Frank's house. When the plane first landed on the island, we were greeted by a glittering xylophone that bore Mona's name. She played "When the Day is Done" upon our arrival. | Mona was known for "foot play" or the practice of Boko Maru. This is a forbidden Bokononist ritual that involved connecting through the soles of the feet. She was first noted as doing it on stage when the plane arrived at San Lorenzo. In this way, I was devastated to learn about this ritual. She was open about her religious beliefs even though Bokonon was illegal. | And so Mona will marry the next president of San Lorenzo... | It was predicted that Mona would marry the next president in the Books of Bokonon. It was not so much a prediction as it was a fact. Once it was written, the people of San Lorenzo would make it happen. I agreed to become the president for the sole motive of marrying her. Thank you Bokonon! | Although "Papa" is an old man, he still is the president of a country and he must protect himself from any unruly heathens. The book briefly mentions the gun and yet it is striking because it is one of the modern things that exists on the island of San Lorenzo. "Papa" has taken a relic from the present and brought it to a place where it isn't needed and it displays how he is cautious at every turn. | "Papa" obtained his ice crystal by manipulating Frank Hoenikker. He bribed him by offering him a good job as a leader of San Lorenzo. He carries the crystal around his neck. Little do they know, all the crystals belonging to the Hoenikker children have been stolen by people close to them. The ice nine is a powerful weapon that everyone wants to have a piece of.
12: Ice Nine | The Hoenikker children divided the ice nine that their father created among themselves. To prevent an apocalypse, they should have melted it. However, they let greed get to their heads and carried it in red thermoses that could and do fall into the wrong hands. This was devastating to the world. It served as a symbol of power. The only thing standing between the ice nine and certain death is the thin walls of the thermos. | Unlike typical ice, ice nine has a unique crystalline structure. It remains frozen at room temperature. When it comes in contact with other droplets of water, it passes its molecular arrangement on and more ice nine is formed. jIt melts at 114.4 degrees Fahrenheit. It was designed to clear up muddy areas that would plague marines but its catastrophic effects kept it from being used on the field. | All water on Earth could potentially become ice nine if it came into contact with water. The world would look similar to this photo. Since people are made mainly of water, the effects would be devastating if it came into contact with our soft tissues. It would be apocalyptic. The only way to get rid of ice nine is to melt it. | Our Backyard By Newt Hoenikker
13: Bibliography | Blank Diploma. Blank Diploma. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.