Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle
I believe that Vonnegut uses Cat's Cradle as an allegorical tale about what will happen to the world if we are not careful with technology that has the ability to end life on this planet. He points out one of the qualities of humanity; that people make mistakes, thus poisoning our minds and encouraging a better world.
One of the obvious ways that Vonnegut uses this book to "encourage a better world" would be by showing that the end of world may come from an accidental release of technology. At the time when this book was written, nuclear war seemed to be an almost certainty. If we look at the number of bomb shelters being built and drills being conducted in classrooms during the late fifties and early sixties we would see evidence of that would point to the overall feeling in American society that the end was near. The nuclear genie was safely contained by the super powers. But I think that Vonnegut saw that all it would take was one small country; who possessed end of the world technology, to have an accident and it would spell the doom of mankind.
Vonnegut writes, when speaking of ice-nine, that "apparently the United States of America and Union of Soviet Socialist Republic had it....understandably surrounded by electrified fences and homicidal German shepards" (Chapt. 110). I believe that he was pointing out that the super powers of the world who have end of the world technology keep it very well guarded against theft or accident. However, ice-nine was also in the possession of Papa. All it takes is one suicidal leader and one accident by the San Lorenzo airforce to release ice-nine into the world, resulting in the end of the planet. Vonnegut seems to be demonstrating that although nuclear weapons are well cared for by the super powers, the technology is available to people who may not be so careful with it.
So, by using this little analogy of ice-nine to nuclear power, I believe Vonnegut encourages the reader to try to make the world a better place. Vonnegut takes us through an imaginary look at the end of the world. His apocalyptic vision is littered with examples of the hypocrisy that exist in San Lorenzo and he uses this give us a satirical look at life in America. He points out to the reader that human beings make mistakes and that technology exists that may make one of these mistakes the one that ends the world.
The very first words that I would use to describe Cat's Cradle are surrealistic and black comedy. Reading this book is somewhat like running through a Dali landscape. You can tell that things are not quite right, but it's just a little too blurry to tell why. This feeling is demonstrated beautifully in Cat's Cradle. Vonnegut has this amazing talent to slightly smudge the line between "reality" and fantasy, and Cat's Cradle certainly demonstrates that. He takes rather "normal" things, puts them in a blender, mixes them up and POOF! you have a world that, for some strange reason, makes...