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Cat's Cradle

Cat's Cradle


by Kurt Vonnegut

Analysis: Writing Style


Cat's Cradle isn't just tonally like a stand-up comedy routine. It's even written in a style and structure that reminds one of the open-mic science. Or is it an art? Eh, both.

Most stand-up comedy routines are arranged around short, humorous stories called "bits," and these bits aren't like a Victorian novel, detailing every character or room down to their warts. They're there to tell a joke, and a joke is a story with one or two perfect and hilarious details. Vonnegut takes this style to heart. His sentences and paragraphs are short while his details are sparse and telling. For example:

My sick head wobbled on my stiff neck. The trolley tracks had caught the wheels of Dr. Breed's glossy Lincoln again.

Short, simple, and only enough details to let you feel the humor in John's hangover. Sure, there are exceptions to this rule—it is a novel after all—but they are few and far between.

Another telling aspect of the stand-up comedy style is the chapter setup. The book is written with 127 chapters spread out over less than 300 pages. Each chapter tells a quick "bit" and most end with a punchline like any joke worth its golden salt should. So, if you think it's ridiculous that Cat's Cradle has 127 chapters: that's the point.

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