That’s right, you read correctly. I have found a new religion and fallen in love with it, infatuated even, and it’s called Bokononism.
The best part about my new found religion is that I don’t even have to give up my old one! Isn’t that wonderful! How lucky can I be, I get to have my cake and now actually eat it too, all thanks to Bokononism.
What was my old religion you ask? Why, Christianity of course. But with Bokononism you see, I don’t have to give my old religion up, I can keep practicing Christianity and then get all of the benefits that Bokononism brings as well. Isn’t that great! Piety without having to sacrifice my natural love of Hedonism. YEA! The best of both worlds!
As with any great religion, Bokononism has it’s share of detractors and critics too. I won’t let them rain on my parade though because with my new religion, critics don’t last long. Now I can go to church on Sunday AND then put on my black Ninja Assassin suit on Friday nights to silence those stupid critics! See? I get to have it all now. WHOOPIE! Thank the god of Bokononism!
Yeah, those stupid rotten critics, they’ll get whats coming to them soon enough alright, we have converts all over the world. They won’t escape. Right now we just keep them in check but pretty soon they’re going to have to go along to get along. If they don’t, we’re going to kill them, but not before we torture them a little first. He, he, he 🙂
Just read one of our founder’s (the Great Reverend Bokonon) greatest book’s and then you’ll know too. He tells through fiction what we can’t say outright, but it’s all there;
“John and the Hoenikker children eventually end up on the fictional Caribbean island of San Lorenzo, one of the poorest countries on Earth, where the people speak a barely comprehensible creole of English (for example “twinkle, twinkle, little star” is rendered “Tsvent-kiul, tsvent-kiul, lett-pool store”). It is ruled by the dictator, “Papa” Monzano, who threatens all opposition with impalement on a giant hook.
San Lorenzo has an unusual culture and history, which John learns about while studying a guidebook lent to him by the newly appointed US ambassador to the country. He learns about an influential religious movement in San Lorenzo, called Bokononism, a strange, postmodern faith that combines irreverent, nihilistic, and cynical observations about life and God’s will with odd, but peaceful rituals (for instance, the supreme act of worship is an intimate act consisting of prolonged physical contact between the bare soles of the feet of two persons, supposed to result in peace and joy between the two communicants). Though everyone on the island seems to know much about Bokononism and its founder, Bokonon, the present government calls itself Christian and those caught practising Bokononism are punished with death by the giant “hook.”
As the story progresses, it becomes clear that San Lorenzo society is more bizarre and cryptic than originally revealed. In observing the interconnected lives of some of the island’s most influential residents, John learns that Bokonon himself was at one point a de facto ruler of the island, along with a US Marine deserter. The two men created Bokononism as part of a utopian project to control the population. The ban was an attempt to give the religion a sense of forbidden glamour, and it is found that almost all of the residents of San Lorenzo, including the dictator, practice the faith, and executions are rare.”
Cat’s Cradle: Metaphor Analysis
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The title of the book comes from the children’s string game called “cat’s cradle” in which string is wound around the fingers and changed into different patterns. It can be played alone or with others.
It was the game Dr. Felix Hoenikker, father of the atom bomb, was playing with his youngest son, Newton, on the day the atomic bomb went off in Hiroshima. The game is a major symbol for evil in the book, for the lies humans construct and then get entangled by. Newt tells Jonah that it is “One of the oldest games there is” (Chpt. 74, p. 165). That is why it is difficult to know how it started or how to undo it. It connects everything in a meaningless complexity. For instance, the string that Felix used to play the game was ironically taken from the manuscript of a novel about the end of the world by a bomb invented by mad scientists. This clearly connects the string game with the atomic bomb and the end of the world. The image suggests that evil is constructed by humans.
Later Newt paints an ugly picture looking like a spider’s web that suggests to the narrator “the sticky nets of human frailty”(Chpt. 74, p. 164). Newt tells him it is a cat’s cradle: “For maybe a hundred thousand years or more, grownups have been waving tangles of string in their children’s faces . . . no wonder kids grow up crazy” (Chpt. 74, p. 165). Newt is outraged by this hypocritical game, because he sees “No damn cat, and no damn cradle” (Chpt. 74, p. 166). Every time another lie is exposed, Newt jokes, “See the cat? See the cradle?” (Chpt. 80, p. 179).
Ice-Nine and Images of Death
Ice-nine is the invention Hoenikker comes up with after the atomic bomb and is even more deadly than the bomb, for it ends life on earth. It is more dangerous, because it is easily carried around in little thermos jugs. Jonah the narrator is a reporter, and he tends to see images that relate to death clustered around the Hoenikkers. Ice-nine like the bomb was invented for the military to use in warfare, and violent military images abound. There are police guarding the Lab where Hoenikker worked. A Marine General gets Felix to work on the ice-nine. Angela’s husband is a military weapons manufacturer. The United States gives warplanes painted with violent cartoons on them as a gift or bribe to San Lorenzo, and one of them accidentally starts the end of the world with a crash. Papa Monzano is a military dictator who wears a shoulder holster, and his home is a medieval castle with torture chambers, and the infamous hook for criminals to hang by out front. A Nazi doctor from Auschwitz attends to Papa in his last illness.
The Breed family makes death their business. Asa runs the Lab that invents weapons, while Marvin Breed makes the tombstones. When Jonah remarks that it’s a small world, Marvin says, “When you put it in a cemetery, it is” (Chpt. 31, p. 64). This is how everyone will end up—dead, and Julian Castle can only laugh when the bubonic plague piles up corpses outside his hospital. Mona similarly laughs at the mass ice-nine suicide when she sees thousands of frozen corpses. Papa’s death by cancer is a morbid scene, with people vying to give him absurd versions of the last rites. The macabre humor makes the reader aware of the pointless death awaiting humans, speeded up by their own hands.
Animal imagery is often used by authors to depict less than admirable human behavior. In keeping with Vonnegut’s opinion of human stupidity, he portrays people as mindless or vicious animals. Frank Hoenikker is a “fox-faced, immature young man” out to get what he can by cunning (Chpt. 37, p.80). Papa Monzano is a “gorilla in his late seventies” (Chpt. 37, p. 80), blatantly brutal without apologies. Bolivar is the “barracuda capital of the world” (Chpt. 38, p. 81) where everyone is ribbed to shreds in no time; Angela is “a horse-faced woman with platinum blonde hair” (Chpt.47. p. 101), and the capitalist, H. Lowe Crosby, engages in “barn-yard clownishness” (Chpt. 43, p. 92), thinking he is a civilized American. Jonah thinks that the mountains of San Lorenzo look like “pigs at a trough” (Chpt. 60, p. 132). Dr. Vox Humana’s Christianity is symbolized by a chicken in a hatbox, which he is ready to butcher in a bloody rite. The ant farm and bugs in a jar that Frank likes to observe are extended metaphors for human life. They suggest futility, cruelty, and claustrophobia. Even Jonah’s spiritual group, his karass, is described as “free-form as an amoeba” (Chpt. 2, p. 3), engulfing many lives in its shapeless spread towards total destruction.