by Kurt Vonnegut
Cat's Cradle Theme of Science
Science is overrated. Sure it gave us the periodic table, antibiotics, and bouncy balls, but it also gave us atomic bombs, anthrax, and super difficult homework. That's the message of Cat's Cradle, or, at least, that's what it might seem like at first glance. But if you dig a little deeper, you'll discover that it isn't science that's really on trial here. It's the thought that science can somehow be considered separate or above the atrocities it helps create, such as the atomic bomb. Characters like Asa Breed and Felix Hoenikker consider their research distinct from the way the world decides to use it. But in Cat's Cradle, this mentality is considered wrong, and science is held responsible for the chain of consequences brought about by its research: both the good (bouncy balls!) and the bad (homework).
Questions About Science
- Why do you think Felix Hoenikker, the novel's premier scientist, is given such a childish personality? What does this suggest about the theme of science in the novel to you?
- Does Cat's Cradle present any type of science or technology in a positive light? If yes, what is it and what does this suggest about the theme of science in the novel? If no, then why do you think this is the case?
- Are any of the scientists in Cat's Cradle written in a positive light? If yes, who and what does this suggest about the theme of science in the novel? If not, then why do you think this is the case?
- Read Isaac Asimov's short story "The Last Question" (Source). How do the views of science and technology differ in the two stories? Are there similarities?
Chew on This
Cat's Cradle sees science and technology as tools that can be used for evil as well as good.
Every bit of advanced technology featured in Cat's Cradle takes a life—including cars and airplanes.