by Kurt Vonnegut
Cat's Cradle Theme of Art & Culture
Most novelists see themselves as artists, and after so many hours spent on your art, are you really going to suggest that it's ultimately worthless? Probably not. So, it's no wonder that Cat's Cradle sees art as incredibly valuable. But then it gets tricky. See, all art the characters encounter or create is a lie. Truth just doesn't factor into it. Newt's painting is a cat's cradle, and John tells us his book is nothing but fiction from start to finish. But does that mean it has no value? Nope. The novel suggests that if we had to live in a world where our only truths were atomic bombs, human suffering, and the cold embrace of oblivion we'd all go insane. The lies of art keep us sane—or, at least, a happier kind of crazy.
Questions About Art & Culture
- What character do you see as the most artistic and why? How about the least artistic? Compare and contrast the two. Does the comparison between them suggest anything to you on the theme of art in the novel? What is it?
- Is it possible to see Felix Hoenikker as a type of artist? Why or why not?
- Is any work of art in Cat's Cradle seen as valueless or perhaps unacceptable? If yes, what is it and how can you tell? If no, why do you suppose this is? What does your answer suggest to you about the theme of art in the novel?
- Do you agree with Cat's Cradle's ideal of "art as lie" or "life imitating art"? If yes, then explain where the novel got it right with some examples. If no, then explain where you think Cat's Cradle missed the mark. Feel free to mix a little bit of yes and no if you need to.
Chew on This
The artist is the only occupation in Cat's Cradle not held up to ridicule.
Everything in the novel dies—except for art. Even George Minor Moakely's gallows song lives on.