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Cat's Cradle

Cat's Cradle

by Kurt Vonnegut

Fate and Free Will Theme

Ah, the old fate and free will discussion: we meet again. And we'll probably be meeting a few more times down the road. Writers just love this topic, and truthfully, so do we. Cat's Cradle draws a really fine line between fate and free will. John thinks the path he takes in the novel was determined by fate. After all, The Book of Bokonon says things happen as they should. On the other hand, the novel doesn't give any evidence beyond John's assurances that everything that happened wasn't just a huge coincidence. Also, Bokonon is a liar and a half. So, is fate another of the lies humans tell themselves to make their lives bearable? Alternatively, is there a force guiding us to some predetermined fate against our free will?

Questions About Fate and Free Will

  1. So, we'll just get this one out of the way: do you think the novel promotes fate or freewill? No answer will be the wrong one—that much has been fated. Still, make sure you back it up with evidence.
  2. John definitely believes in fate. Are there any characters that seem to believe in freewill in the novel? Who? When comparing them to John, what does this comparison lead you to think about the theme of fate and freewill? If there are no characters who believe in freewill, then what does this say about fate in the novel?
  3. Which characters believe in fate? Do they characters have anything in common? What is it? What does this suggest about fate and freewill in the novel?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

John only believes in fate after the novel's conclusion. This means all the references to his fate come from future John—aka John the narrator—and not his past self. Like an M. Night Shyamalan movie, you'll have to reread it to catch all the clues.

The novel suggests that inventing technology guarantees its use. Don't want to see the world blow up? Don't invent something that can explode.

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