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Vonnegut's Thoughts On The Atrocities Of War

2053 words - 9 pages

“Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war” (John Adams)
In Vonnegut’s science fiction and dystopian novel Cat’s Cradle, the main character, John, demonstrates his personal growth and from that, his enlightened attitude towards the unnecessary horrors that war creates. In the beginning of the novel, John sets out to discover and gather information on what people’s lives were like the day that the atomic bomb dropped. Along his path of discovery, he meets the Hoenikker family, of which Felix was the patriarch and the creator of the elusive, dangerous material ice-nine. John then gets sidetracked of his initial quest and becomes infatuated on his pursuit for more knowledge ...view middle of the document...

From this experience, Billy begins to accept his fate by taking a passive attitude towards things and also recognizes that war isn’t beneficial in any way but only destroys those around it. Through the internal growth of Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse-Five and John in Cat’s Cradle, Vonnegut demonstrates that activities associated with war as well as war itself are pointless, destructive and merciless.
The anti-war theme that Vonnegut incorporates throughout his novels is suitably seen through John’s personal development in Cat’s Cradle. John’s initial quest to discover information about the Atomic Bomb first exemplifies Vonnegut’s attempt to unravel the cruel nature of war. Before John even begins to tell of his intentions to write a book, he says, “Call me Jonah.” (Vonnegut 1). By saying this, John is directly alluding to the biblical story of Jonah and the whale as well as Herman Melville’s Moby Dick where the main character’s name is Ishmael. In the biblical story, Jonah is trying to discover God and learn how to worship/God’s will whereas in Moby Dick Ishmael is trying to catch a whale. Both however, tell tales of discovering oneself through a quest, and the internal discovery portion of these stories is what Vonnegut tries to show through John. He makes it explicitly clear within the first sentence that the whole book will be a quest for John to discover himself. Furthermore, the whale, another common feature of both of these stories is involved as a part of the discovery. Another element to the allusions seen by the quote would be the use of a whale as a central element in both stories. In both stories, the whale is seen as a violent creature that is capable of killing and destroying humanity, and both main characters are in a quest to do something associated with the whale. For this reason Vonnegut uses the whale, a subtle medium, to show that John will be embarking on a quest to discover the truth about war and violence. Once John officially announces he is going to write a book about the atomic bomb, he p make an effort to inform the reader that the book will focus on the human aspects behind war.
“My Book is going to emphasize the human rather than the technical side of the bomb, so recollections of the day through the eyes of a ‘baby’, if you’ll pardon the expression, would fit in perfectly.” (Vonnegut 22)
From this quote, John lets the reader know that his main quest will be discovering the psychological side effects that occur not from being physically affected, but from recognizing that one’s own country is responsible for the massacre of innocent civilians that did not partake in the war. Once again, Vonnegut assures the reader that John will be investigating the mental/emotional affects of war and therefore sets up the general plot of the book by doing so.
Vonnegut further attempts to demonstrate how war is destructive through John’s personal growth through his...

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