Study Guide to Chapters 36-65 of Cat's Cradle
Indexing convention for this study guide
Each main question unit begins with a decimal number. The first number (i.e., on the left of the point) refers to the chapter of the book in which the question if anchored. The second number (i.e., to the right of the point) places the question in the entire series of questions emerging from that chapter. The third number (in parentheses) indicates the page in the Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group paperback edition of the text (1988).
Thus 1.3 indicated the third question concerning Chapter 1, and 2.5 points to the fifth question in the series of questions over Chapter 2.
42.1(92): Can you interpret the couplet Bokonon invites us to sing along with him?
43.1(92-3): How does H. Lowe Crosbys approach to what people were really supposed to do with their time on Earth connect with his opinion of the hook?
44.1(96-97), 45.1(98-99): What are we to make of the titles Vonnegut affixes to these two chapters? What might be his point in designing this history for the Mintons?
The first step in getting a handle on a question like this is to be on the lookout for situations and scenes elsewhere in the novel that might strike a resonance with this history.
The theme of pessimism is one. Where have we already seen this? What other ideas connect up with it, in turn?
But dont stop with this. What are some other issues raised by the experiences the Mintons report here (and by Crosbys reaction to them)? (How, by the way, does this reaction on Crosbys part tie up with the rest of our conception of his character?)
47.1(title): Be on the lookout for how the ideas developed in this chapter (Dynamic Tension) get developed later in the novel.
47.2(last paragraph: 109): The legend mentioned here is described as made up by Bokonon. So we shouldnt expect anything to come of it, in the future or should we?
By now you will be on to the fact that the idea of the end of the world is functioning as a motif in the story. If you havent been keeping track of this (with, say, a note like OdtW in the margin), you might look back and do this now.
Here are some helps: 1(1), 5(9), 12(26), 22(50). Be on the lookout for possible future instances.
48.1(104): Re: Saint Augustines youth. In his Confessions (397), Augustine of Hippo (354-430) relates the history of his dissolute youth, his study of pagan philosophy, his passage through the Persian teachings of Manichaeism, up through his conversion to Christianity.
Augustine subsequently played a key role in the establishment of orthodoxy within Christianity. In his City of God (413-426), for example, he lays out a comprehensive picture of history according to the fundamental principles of Christian theology according to his understanding of them. These are, principally: (1) the utter depravity of human nature since the fall of the original parents in the Garden of Eden (hence the slavery of the natural human will to sin), (2) the complete dependence of personal regeneration, and thus salvation, upon the issuance of divine grace (hence, predestination, since God knows and wills from eternity to whom he will grant, and from whom he will withhold, his grace), and (3) the perseverance of the saints (the idea that once saved by the action Gods grace, a person is unable to bring about his own damnation).
- In invoking the name of Augustine, Bokonon invites his readers to consider not only the parallels between their careers, but the parallels and divergences between their religious doctrines.
- We should notice, then, that Vonnegut contrives here to nudge his readers us to bring to bear this curiosity from here on in the novel.
49.1(107): Bokonons account of his arrival on San Lorenzo may strike an echo with something we remember from the opening chapter.
49.2(107): It was a rebirth for him.
49.3(108): Are there several ways (not just one) in which one might stay like a baby all the rest of ones days?
51.1(112): Angela tells the narrator, Dr. Breed told me I wasnt supposed to co-operate with you. He said you werent interested in giving a fair picture of Father.
The narrator says he placated her some by telling her that the book would probably never be done anyway, that I no longer had a clear idea of what it would or should mean.
Angela replies, Well, if you ever do do the book, you better make Father a saint, because thats what he was.
Other parts of this Study Guide to Cat's Cradle
- SG to Chapters 1-35
- SG to Chapters 66-96
- Sg to Chapters 97-127
- SG: Bokonisms: a list of first occurrences.
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This page last updated 27 February 2003 .