Human Fallibility Exposed In Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat's Cradle

1110 words - 4 pages

Oscar Wilde, an acclaimed Irish Poet, novelist, dramatist and critic once aptly commented, “Men become old, but they never become good”. The philosophical aspect of this quote relies on the basis that human beings are inherently malevolent. Through his pessimistic perspective, Wilde clearly captures the ill-disposed mindset of mankind. Moreover, there are various deductive arguments that discredit the optimistic depiction of human nature. One of the prime examples can be found in Kurt Vonnegut’s literature. In Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat's Cradle, through the illustration of his characters, the author symbolizes the four elements of human fallibility.

Through the portrayal of Felix Hoenniker, Vonnegut satirizes that innocence does not necessarily equal harmlessness. In chapter 7, Newton Hoenniker writes about his father to Jonah, “After the thing went off, after it was a sure thing that America could wipe out a city with just one bomb, a scientist turned to Father and said, ‘Science has now known sin.’ And do you know what Father said? He said, ‘What is sin?’ (13). Felix’s ignorance toward the moral responsibility that accompanied his nuclear weapons research become blatant. Furthermore, Felix’s lack of judiciousness emblematizes his shallowness. Integrating such a concept promptly fills Vonnegut’s intentions of illustrating the destructive nature of innocence. The author elicits that impeccability found in Felix Hoenniker can be deleterious. In order to understand how these circumstances lead to a worldwide disaster by the end of Cat’s Cradle, it is of paramount importance that one conceives Felix as the epitome of a scientist who researches for knowledge with little or no concern for the application of that knowledge. In chapter 33, Jonah engages in a conversation with Martin Breed, “‘I know all about how harmless and gentle and dreamy he was supposed to be, how he’d never hurt a fly, how he didn’t care about money and power and fancy clothes and automobiles and things, how he wasn’t like the rest of us, how he was better than the rest of us, how he was so innocent he was practically a Jesus’ (…) ‘But,’ he said, ‘but how the hell innocent is a man who helps make a thing like an atomic bomb? And how can you say a man had a good mind when he couldn’t even bother to do anything when the best-hearted, most beautiful woman in the world, his own wife, was dying for lack of love and understanding’” (48). Martin mocks the prevailing notion that Felix is a harmless, playful innocent. Vonnegut depicts how people admire Felix because he is not influenced by materialistic values. However, Martin correctly points out that he does not deserve praise for not desiring the values that drive others. Thus, Vonnegut persistently allows for subjugation of Felix’s family members and permits the perpetuation of his diabolical atrocities. While Vonnegut obscurely elicits Felix’s “destructive” innocence, he blatantly illustrates Lowe Crosby’s conceitedness.

Through his...

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