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Cat's Cradle

Cat's Cradle

by Kurt Vonnegut

Minor Characters

Character Analysis

Horlick & Claire Minton

Mr. Minton is ambassador for the United States to the island of San Lorenzo. He and his wife arrive on the plane with John. Here, we learn that Mr. Minton was fired from the State Department because Mrs. Minton wrote a letter discussing American's shortsighted foreign policy.

Mr. Minton's speech during the "Hundred Martyrs to Democracy" ceremony links him to the novel's interest in humanism. You should really check out all of Chapter 114 to get the full effect, but here's a sample of his speech:

This wreath I bring is a gift from the people of one country to the people of another. Never mind which countries. Think of people…. (114.29)

Despite being an ambassador to the United States, Minton's speech serves not as a rallying call to the American cause but to humanity's cause. Unfortunately, the plane accident at the ceremony leads to the death of both Mr. and Mrs. Minton.

So much for humanity's cause.

Emily Hoenikker

Wife of Felix Hoenikker and mother of Frank, Angela, and Newt. After Dr. Hoenikker leaves his car in traffic, Emily retrieves it but is injured in a car accident on the way home. The injury she sustained to her pelvis would later prove fatal as she gave birth to Newt.

Although there's little to say about her role in the plot, her death does provide two important cornerstones for the novel (possibly more):

1) John visits her grave, mistaking it for Dr. Hoenikker's. The grave is immense with personalized poems engraved into it from her children. In a novel brimming with humorous death, it provides a stark reminder of the profound impact death can have on a family or individual.

2) Hoenikker's indifference to anything other than his own pursuits inadvertently leads to her death. We are constantly reminded that Hoenikker helped develop the atomic bomb, killing hundreds of thousands of people. Emily's death brings the consequences of Hoenikker's ignorance down to a more manageable level for the reader. Sometimes the personal death of a single individual can make its tragedy easier to grasp than the grand scale of something like the atomic bomb.

Julian Castle

Castle comes from the same family as the Castle Sugar Company, the very company that once exploited San Lorenzo for all it was worth (which, frankly, wasn't much). He once lived a life of hedonism and decadence, "spending millions without increasing mankind's stores of anything but chagrin" (40.5). By the time of the story, he runs the island's only hospital, the House of Hope and Mercy in the Jungle.

In case you were wondering, Julian is a complete cynic and borderline jerk.

Earl McCabe

McCabe came to San Lorenzo with Lionel Johnson, a.k.a. Bokonon, and the two attempted to make it into a utopia. When Johnson took on the role of religious figurehead, McCabe became the evil dictator to bring balance to their charade. McCabe waged a fake war against Bokononism for years.

After a while, though, McCabe actually began to become the dictator he initially pretended to be. But he never attempted to actually catch Bokonon, always remaining "sane enough to realize that without the holy man to war against, he himself would become meaningless" (790.12).

McCabe eventually shot himself. Julian Castle believes that "[u]nrelieved villainy just wore him out" (83.9). This statement kind of makes McCabe a member of the very short list of tragic dictators.

Dr. Schlichter von Koenigswald

A physician on San Lorenzo, and "Papa" Mozano's primary care doctor. He works at the House of Hope and Mercy hospital to atone for his role in Auschwitz. By Julian Castle's estimate, the "number of people he's saved will equal the number of people he let die—in the year 3010" (83.23).

He's also a more important character to the story than you'd think. He brings balance to the scientific-minded characters of Dr. Asa Breed and Felix Hoenikker. Unlike Hoenikker and Breed, Dr. Koenigswald comes to learn about the chain of consequences his actions have on the world. As a result, he claims, "I am a very bad scientist. I will do anything to make a human being feel better, even if it's unscientific" (98.7). While this may or may not make him a bad scientist, it certainly makes him a good humanist.

Despite his Nazi past.

Miguel "Papa" Monzano

The dictator of San Lorenzo and Mona's adoptive father. When we meet Monzano, he's dying of cancer and kills himself by consuming ice-nine. When a plane crashes into his castle, Monzano's body plummets into the ocean, causing the ice-nine apocalypse and more or less the end of the world.

Zinka

A Ukrainian midget and dancer. She marries Newt but soon defects to Russia, creating the type of scandal only a tabloid could love. Yet, even the tabloid's "investigative journalists" don't realize she stole Newt's sample of ice-nine, procuring the deadly polymorph for the Soviet Union.

Sandra

An Ilium streetwalker, although, to be fair, she picks up her johns at the Cape Cod Room. She and John chitchat the night away and spend the early morning hours forming a brutishly drunk beast with two backs. During their time together, Sandra provides information on Ilium and Frank Hoenikker, whom she went to school with.

Miss Francine Pefko

A Receptionist at the General Forge and Foundry Company. She works with the famous chemist Dr. Horvath, and she can't understand science at all. She claims listening to Dr. Horvath speak is "like a foreign language" (15.14). Later, she compares science to "magic" (16.10). This comparison suggests that, for the non-specialist, science and religion could be on an equal footing in the way they mystify and confound.

Miss Naomi Faust

Receptionist to Dr. Breed. When discussing Dr. Hoenikker's personality with John, she has trouble "understanding how truth, all by itself, could be enough for a person" (25.8). Her name is ironic, since Faust is a character of Germanic legend who sells his soul to the devil for knowledge and the truth.

Lyman Enders Knowles

Elevator operator at General Forge. He's a wee-bit on the crazy side and has a habit of grabbing his butt and saying "Yes, yes!" while in conversation.

Marvin Breed

Owner of the local tombstone salesroom and brother to Dr. Breed.

Dr. Breed's Son

Dr. Breed's son worked at the Research Laboratory during the creation of the atomic bomb. After it was dropped on Hiroshima, he quit and took up carving tombstones instead.

Jack

Owner of Ilium's hobby shop. Jack loved Frank like a son, admiring the boy's ability to create beautiful models. Unbeknownst to Jack, Frank was sleeping with his wife.

Sherman Krebbs

A nihilist and freeloader. He stays at John's apartment, destroying the place and killing the cat. The scene of post-carnage left by Krebbs pushes John away from a nihilistic and meaningless outlook upon the world.

Philip Castle

Philip owns the Casa Mona, the only hotel on San Lorenzo. He is a childhood friend of Mona and remains infatuated with her—what with the entire mural he paints of her. He also wrote the only book on San Lorenzo's history.

Dr. Vox Humana

The Christian minister on San Lorenzo. Since both Catholicism and Protestantism are outlawed on the island, Dr. Humana has to "feel his way along with Christianity" (96.11). This feeling along has led him to create a final rites ceremony that involves a chicken and butcher knife. He's also very skilled at drawing caricatures.

Oh, and his name? Latin for "Human Voice." Yeah, we think that's significant.

Harrison C. Conners

Angela's husband, who married her so he could acquire her ice-nine for the United States government. He spends his time drinking and tomcatting—and not exactly behind Angela's back either. Even so, Angela makes like her marriage couldn't be happier.

Nestor Aamons

Mona's dad.

Stanley

Frank's manservant. He's the only fat San Lorenzo native John ever sees.

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