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Cat’s Cradle: The Destructive Nature of Humans

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Essay title: Cat’s Cradle: The Destructive Nature of Humans

Everyone has heard the expression “curiosity killed the cat.” That is to say, the search for new wisdom can often have unpleasant consequences; a child curious about the kitchen stove is bound to get burned. This is exactly what Kurt Vonnegut demonstrates in Cat’s Cradle with the example of ice-nine, which is developed by the fictional creator of the atom bomb, Felix Hoenikker. It is symbolic of the atom bomb in that it has the power to end human life. Hoenikker is obviously an exceedingly smart man; however, it can be inferred from his inventions that he does not always consider the negative consequences of his new discoveries. He is merely on a quest for further knowledge, not a quest to better our society. The game of cat’s cradle, which Hoenikker was playing on the day of Hiroshima, can be understood to represent both the naоve, infantile nature of Hoenikker as well as the great destruction caused by his invention. Vonnegut counters the scientific aspects of the novel with the bizarre religion of Bokononism. Overall, Cat’s Cradle is used by Vonnegut to point out the flaws in modern society. Through the analogous ice-nine, Vonnegut shows that humankind’s search for knowledge is prone to end up in destruction.

This fictional substance, coincidentally, has many similar characteristics as the atom bomb. Chiefly, they are both symbols of the destructive power of human technology run amok (Peacock vol.44 210). They also highlight humans’ flaws, showing that we are too careless to be responsible for anything as dangerous as ice-nine or the atom bomb. Vonnegut exaggerates this carelessness by giving immediate ownership of ice-nine to the three obviously irresponsible children of Dr. Hoenikker (Student Resource Center 1). Ultimately, Vonnegut uses ice-nine to demonstrate the fundamentally destructive nature of humans (Bloom 40). The novel ends with the complete destruction of the world, showing Vonnegut’s interpretation of nuclear holocaust (Vonnegut 191). In all these ways, ice-nine is almost synonymous with the atom bomb.

Hoenikker can be seen as representational of our entire race. He is a scientist and inventor on a search for knowledge, just as we are a race on a search for knowledge. It is apparent that this search often yields negative results, as in the child and stove example. Though Hoenikker may be responsible for the atom bomb and ice-nine, he emerges not as a monster or villain but as a giant child

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