A Comparison Of Kurt Vonnegut’s Two Novels: Cat’s Cradle And Slaughterhouse Five

740 words - 3 pages

Free will, the ability of organisms to make choices without being influenced by divine intervention, is one of history’s most debated philosophical topics. Kurt Vonnegut discusses this matter in his two novels Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse-Five. In the first novel, he writes about a religion based on the idea that God puts us in groups to carry out His will. The second novel talks about a group of aliens from the planet Tralfamadore who say that out of the thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe, “Only on Earth is there any talk of free will.” In both novels, the protagonists Jonah and Billy accept their unavoidable fate, and so they don’t worry about life or death. Through his two novels, Vonnegut portrays the futility of believing in free will in a universe controlled by fate.

In Cat’s Cradle, Vonnegut invents a religion based on lies, called Bokononism. It tells that all of humanity are unknowingly organized into teams, called karass, that do God’s will and don’t ever discover what they are doing. These karass revolve around a wampeter, an object that guides the people to do God’s will. This religion suggests that all the choices and events in one’s life happen not because the person chooses for it to happen, but because God meant for it to happen. The narrator, John, is a Bokonist who believes his karass revolves around ice-nine, an isomer of water that freezes any liquid it touches. He believes his whole life, including writing his book about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, going to San Lorenzo, and meeting Felix Hoenikker’s children, was “as it happened… as it was supposed to happen,” and meant to bring him to the world’s apocalypse when the ice-nine accidentally falls into the ocean and freezes the world. This belief lets him accept the fact that he could not have prevented this fate and the deaths of many who thought they had control over their lives but ended up dying because of the unstoppable force of ice-nine.

Similarly, in his novel Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut plainly states that there is no such thing as free will. According to the Tralfamadorians, his aliens who can see in four dimensions,...

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