Study Guide

Angela Hoenikker in Cat's Cradle

By Kurt Vonnegut

Angela Hoenikker

And poor Angela is the eldest Hoenikker kid, which means everything falls on her shoulders. After Emily's death, she became caregiver to Frank, Newt, and even her father. Then after her father's death, she marries Harrison Conners. Their marriage is happy and healthy, assuming you take Angela's word for it and ignore all of Connor's heavy drinking and cheating.

So why does she stay with such an obnoxious tool of a man?

Love Song

Yeah, The Cure for the win. Or, uh, Adele if you were born after the 80s.

Anyway, when she was younger, Angela took care of her father, Newt, and Frank "treating [them all] exactly the same" (6.9). Later she creates a family with Harrison Conners. When John looks through her family album, he notices that all the images look "trapped like fossil beetles in amber" and the people "were the images of a large part of our karass [without] a granfallooner in the collection" (52.3).

Remember a granfallooner is a member of a karass that doesn't really belong, so by John's perspective, Angela really does care for the meaningful people in her life. She's doing something right.

Like art or religion, this love could be a lie. But it's still beautiful, because it helps Angela live her life. For example, she talks to John about how he'll portray her father in his book, demanding he "make Father a saint, because that's what he was" (51.21). Of course, Felix Hoenikker wasn't a saint—the man didn't even know how to define sin, remember—but Angela's love-lie made her day-to-day existence beautiful.

Or at least bearable.

Same goes for her marriage with tomcat Conners. From the "way she talked," John thought she had a happy marriage (80.31). The reality is that Conners is an emotionally abusive husband. Newt notes that Angela's portrayal of her marriage and the actuality of her marriage are like the cat's cradle (80.32).

So maybe love doesn't make the world go round: maybe lies make it go round.

Angel of the House

Obviously, Angela's name means angel. But less obviously, her name might be a reference to the Victorian conceit of the "Angel in the House."

The idea behind the angel in the house comes from a Coventry Patmore poem of the same name. In his poem, he stressed that women should be "passive and powerless, meek, charming, graceful, sympathetic, self-sacrificing, pious, and above all—pure" (Source).

Hmm, sounds a lot like Angela.

But Angela has an outlet to break free from her passive angel role: her clarinet. John compares her playing of the instrument to a "case of schizophrenia or demonic possession" (81.16). In other words, it's indefinable and certainly not passive or meek.

So, what do you think? Is Angela Vonnegut's poke at the "Angel in the House" conceit or are we just looking a little too much into this one?