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Cat's Cradle

Cat's Cradle


by Kurt Vonnegut

Frank Hoenikker

Character Analysis

Oh, the middle child. Just ask us about being a middle child. He was "Papa" Monzano's choice for third President of San Lorenzo, but Frank turned down the position and gave the job to John instead. Why? Because he knew he'd have the "same limitations [as his] father" (88.20). What exactly are those limitations? To answer that we need to dig deeper into this character.

Frank is short for Franklin. His name might be an ironic reference to Benjamin Franklin, famous scientist, politician, theorist, man's man, man about town, and a bag of chips. (Or, it could just be a name.)

Chip Off the Old Atom

With a mind for detail and invention, Frank is definitely his father's son. His skill set may involve building things rather than researching things, but he builds his little worlds with the same emotional detachment that Felix used when researching.

We can tell Frank is disconnected from the people around him by the way he talks. Since Frank has no idea how to communicate with people, he resorts to strings of clichés and well-worn phrases. Here's our favorite of the bunch:

"There's no sense in beating around the bush," [Frank] said. "I'm a pretty good judge of character, if I do say so myself, and I like the cut of your jib." (87.15)

This, Shmoopers, is terrifically horrible dialogue. He's like a walking, talking Hallmark card of triteness. And it perfectly illustrates Frank's inability to connect with the people surrounding him.

Human but Not Humanist

Now, Frank's lack of relations with others could have been seen as a tragedy if Frank weren't such a cold and calculating character. Like his father before him, Frank is just not in line with the novel's humanism. In fact, he's anti¬humanist, since he doesn't consider how his actions will help or hurt other people. He simply does things because he wants to or because they interest him.

We see this aspect of Frank's character pretty often in the novel, particularly during "Papa" Monzano's death. Frank gave Monzano the ice-nine. But when Frank is presented with the situation he caused, he "disassociate[es] himself from the causes of the mess; identifying himself, with growing pride and energy, with the purifiers, the world-savers, the cleaners-up" (109.2).

Frank doesn't see the dead man who treated him like a son and wanted to give him an entire island. He doesn't even recognize his own blame in the events leading to the death. He only sees a problem that needs solving. In short, he's not exactly the guy you want hanging around your deathbed or preparing your funeral arrangements for that matter.