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Cat's Cradle

Cat's Cradle


by Kurt Vonnegut

Analysis: Allusions

When authors refer to other great works, people, and events, it’s usually not accidental. Put on your super-sleuth hat and figure out why.

Literary and Philosophical References

  • Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1.1)—the novel's first line references the first line of Moby-Dick.
  • The Book of Jonah (1.1-2)—the narrator's choice of pseudonym references both the Minor Prophet Jonah and his story.
  • Gospel of Matthew 22:21 (46.14)
  • Gospel of Matthew 18:4 (49.24)—Bokonon's poem "Be like a baby / The Bible say" is a reference to this Biblical verse.
  • St. Augustine of Hippo (48.6)
  • Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan & Slaughter-House Five (49.10)—characters with the last name Rumfoord appear in other Vonnegut works. How or if these characters are related is anybody's guess although they always seem to come from a wealthy New England family.
  • Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels (51.3)
  • Don Juan (53.4)
  • Psalm 23 a.k.a. A Psalm of David (70.13)
  • Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (79.1)—Castle's line about life being "short and brutish" is a shout-out to this work by Hobbes.
  • Edgar Lee Masters, The Spoon River Anthology (114.26-27)—the specific poem shouted out to is "26. Knowlt Hoheimer."
  • Genesis 1:1 (118.12)
  • Johann David Wyss, The Swiss Family Robinson (122.9), (123.1)—might be a shout-out to the Disney film of the same name.
  • John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men (123.Chapter Title)—the title of this chapter is more than likely a shout-out to Steinbeck's famous novel.
  • Plato, The Republic (126.2)—the title of Bokonon's book on utopias, "Bokonon's Republic," is a reference to Plato's famous utopian tract.
  • John Keats, "Ode on a Grecian Urn" (126.6)—the line about soft pipes playing on, yeah, shout-out to this famous Keats's poem.

Historical References

  • The Hiroshima Bombing (1.7), (4.8), (4.13), (5.2), (5.3), (6.9), (6.15)
  • The Manhattan Project (5.5)
  • Adolf Hitler (10.5), (40.5), (102.25)
  • Alfred Nobel (32.8)
  • Dr. Albert Schweitzer (40.1), (75.3), (75.10)
  • Benito Mussolini (40.5), (102.25)
  • Tommy Manville (40.5)
  • Barbara Hutton (40.5)
  • Charles Atlas (47.9)
  • Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard (48.3)
  • The Battle of Ypres (49.3)
  • J.P. Morgan (49.11)
  • General John J. Pershing (49.11)
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt (49.11)
  • Enrico Caruso (49.11)
  • Warren Gamaliel Harding (49.11)
  • Harry Houdini (49.11)
  • Hernando Cortes (57.2)—a possible shout-out to Hernán Cortés.
  • Holy Roman Emperor Charles V of Spain (57.2)
  • Auschwitz & Buchenwald (73.23)
  • The S.S. (83.19)
  • Joseph Stalin (102.24)
  • Fidel Castro (102.24)
  • Karl Marx (102.26)
  • German Emperor Wilhelm II, a.k.a. Kaiser Bill (102.27)
  • Mao Zedong (102.28)
  • Walt Disney (123.1)
  • Betty Ross (123.5)
  • Helen of Troy (119.1)

Pop Culture References

  • Phillips Brooks, "O Little Town of Bethlehem" (20.13)
  • "Home on the Range" (63.6)
  • "When Day is Done" (64.14)
  • Mende Lux Lewis, Cat House Piano (81.6)

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