Cat's Cradle

Cat's Cradle Summary and Analysis of Chapters 35-43

On the way back to his hotel, Jonah stops by the hobby shop where Frank Hoenikker used to work. He meets the owner, Jack, who takes Jonah to the basement to see one of Frank's creations. It is an expansive, intricate model city. Jack describes with pride how dedicated Frank has been to the project and points out the amazing insight Frank has shown as a city planner. Jack mentions that his wife left him a week ago, but he shows no emotion when relaying this information. When talking about Frank Hoenikker, however, and the tragedy of his premature death, Jack becomes quite emotional because of what the world lost in his passing.

After returning home from his travels in Ilium, Jonah finds his apartment completely wrecked by Sherman Krebbs, the artist he allowed to stay in his home while he traveled. Jonah met Sherman at a cocktail party where Sherman presented himself as the National Chairman of Poets and Painters for Immediate Nuclear War. While Jonah was gone, Sherman made three hundred dollars' worth of phone calls, set a couch on fire, killed Jonah's cat, and broke appliances in his apartment. Sherman also wrote a poem on the refrigerator in excrement and left a note around the dead cat's neck that said "Meow." In retrospect, Jonah considers Krebbs a "wrang-wrang" in his karass, a person who steers people away from a line of thought by the example of the wrang-wrang's own life. Krebbs's horrific treatment of Jonah's apartment and cat serve to deter Jonah from a nihilistic philosophy, allowing him to stay receptive to the teachings of Bokonon that he will be exposed to in the future.

One Sunday after his return from Ilium, Jonah discovers where Frank Hoenikker is residing from a supplement to the New York Sunday Times. The supplement describes the island of San Lorenzo, and Jonah is drawn to it because on its cover is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, Mona Monzano. Inside the publication are pictures of the island and facts about its economy and people, but more importantly there are pictures of Frank Hoenikker standing with the island's dictator, "Papa" Monzano. The supplement identifies Frank as "the blood son of Dr. Felix Hoenikker" several times, and it notes that he is now serving as the Minister of Science and Progress for the island. There is an article describing how Frank happened upon San Lorenzo after being stranded at sea in the Caribbean. When he reached the island, he thought it was a mirage like Fata Morgana, but quickly realized the island was real and that he was being put into jail because he did not have a passport. But he was quickly rescued by "Papa" Monzano after the dictator found out about his ties to Felix Hoenikker, and Frank has since served as an advisor to the leader.

After learning of Frank's fate, Jonah is given a reporting assignment about a sugar millionaire, Julian Castle, who has spent the last twenty years in San Lorenzo working in a hospital he built for the people there. Prior to his arrival on San Lorenzo, Castle was known for his debauchery, but now he is a respected doctor. His only son, Philip Castle, is the manager and owner of the Casa Mona hotel at which Jonah will be staying during his visit.

On the airplane to San Lorenzo, Jonah sits beside a couple, Horlick and Claire Minton. Horlick has just been appointed American Ambassador to San Lorenzo, after serving as a diplomat in numerous other countries around the world. Horlick and Claire are a perfect "duprass," which is a karass composed of only two people. Jonah tries to make conversation with the Mintons, but he never seems to say the right thing and they do not seem interested in including him in their intimate chats.

Later on the plane, Jonah wanders back to a bar area where he meets H. Lowe Crosby, a bicycle maker who is traveling to San Lorenzo to start up a bicycle factory. His wife Hazel is a Hoosier, and she is excited to learn that Jonah is also from Indiana. Hazel delights in the many successful Hoosiers of the world because they are all members of her granfalloon, and she asks Jonah to call her "Mom" because of the bond they apparently share simply on the basis of their common birthplace. Crosby and Jonah begin discussing the culture of San Lorenzo, and Crosby tells him about the large amount of discipline the people there have because of the strict laws. He describes the hook, a method of execution that requires that the offender be placed sideways on a metal hook and hung from it as an example to the rest of the population. The Crosbys have seen a replica of the hook at the waxworks in London, and it looked so real that Hazel wanted to vomit.


Jack shows a great deal of pride in the accomplishments of Frank Hoenikker, considering him as something of a national treasure. Frank's devotion to his model-making is enviable to Jack, and he deeply regrets that Frank died so young. Jack's belief in the great impact that Frank's model-making could have had on the world is a parody intended to reveal the futility of human ventures. Whether Frank had been making toy cars or painting the Sistine Chapel, nothing that he created would be important in the multi-million year history of the world. Jack's concern for the world's loss, in contrast with his lack of concern for his loss of his wife, shows how confused humans' priorities can become with respect to the importance of their creations.

Frank's apparent contribution to humanity (his model town) is not unlike the contributions of Felix Hoenikker. It appears that Frank devoted his life to creating a world that he could perfect and control, and he did so to the detriment of personal relationships. That Frank is actually engaged to Mona (as Jonah discovers later) may seem to contradict this characterization, but remember that Felix Hoenikker also had a wife and three children. It is also interesting to contrast the personalities of Newt and Angela in this context. Angela herself appears to have had difficulty relating to others; many of the townspeople remember her having no friends or boyfriends. Newt, for his part, seems relatively well adjusted as compared with his siblings and father. He was a member of a fraternity, and he seems to Jonah to have tremendous dignity and patience. It is likely that Vonnegut made Newt a midget as a small commentary on what virtue and success can look like. This is not to say that Newt is perfect, but it is noteworthy that the most obviously abnormal character seems to have the most common sense and social capital thus far.

H. Lowe and Hazel Crosby represent ignorant, greedy Americans. They are oblivious to the feelings of those around them, but they constantly seek validation in the form of glorifying granfalloons and seeking others' agreement with their opinions. The Crosbys represent the dangers of dogmatic religious and national identity. The most important aspect of the islanders to Hazel is that they are Christian and speak English, while H. Lowe repeatedly offers his agreement with the San Lorenzans' policy of punishing even the most negligible offenses with the hook. Both characters show a lack of understanding and appreciation for the cultural differences between themselves and the San Lorenzans, while attempting to ignore the idea that people who are not like them are not necessarily bad or backwards. Hazel's delight in finding out that Jonah is a Hoosier only speaks to this attempt to categorize people through her own perspective alone. The Crosbys are friendly with Jonah because he is one of them.

Jonah's irrational trust in Krebbs and Krebbs' subsequent mistreatment of that trust show how ignorant humans can be of their own fates. It is meant to be clear to the reader that lending one's apartment to a complete stranger is not a good idea, but Jonah shows a complete lack of insight in this regard. This scenario is helpful in supporting the Bokononist theme that humans cannot understand God's will, but it also reinforces the theme of the general idiocy of man.

When Jonah falls in love with Mona the moment he sees her, the love at first sight is probably just lust. He has no foundation for his love other than her appearance, but he is at once convinced that having her would make him happy. Thus, he is more than willing to travel to the island of San Lorenzo. As the story will show, however, this is just another fruitless human pursuit that will be played out according to God's will, whether it is beneficial to Jonah or not.