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Love. A simple yet ever so complicated emotion. How can an emotion that supposedly brings about such happiness and joy also bring about some of the worst characteristics of today’s world and lead to such catastrophe? The loaded concept of love and the problems that seem to arise from it or to be more specific, the search for it are all explored in Cat’s Cradle. Kurt Vonnegut uses various characters within the text to demonstrate the different types of love by their unique quests to attain it and the resolution of that desired quest. Newt, seen as an outcast, represents the portion of the population looking for companionship from the outside in. On the other hand, John seemingly has no aspiration to find companionship, but more of a need after getting caught up in a lust for a girl as it so often happens nowadays. Lastly, Felix is the poster boy for those who neglect family and friends, only caring about what is directly in front of him. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut demonstrates how the twisted path to find one of life’s greatest treasures, love, can lead to utter destruction or humiliation as it brings out the underlying problems of society. This is shown first hand through Newt’s wish to connect with Zinka who turns out to be a complete impostor. Love, or more accurately described as infatuation can describe the lust John gains for Mona simply by seeing a single picture of the woman and Felix’s love for knowledge eventually lead to literal destruction.
The desire to connect with others has been sought after for all of humanity. When one is looked at as an outcast, that creates a rough, lonely path to companionship and can cause one to do questionable things. Newt symbolizes everything that comes to mind when the term outcast is spoken of and is how Vonnegut demonstrates the dangers of love when one is so vulnerable. He is looked at as a weak, meaningless person to some degree and that may have been a result of his short stature. When someone is constantly being batted down and receiving hateful verbal abuse, it begins to change the soul of the person. This is all comes back to how vulnerable every person is at their core, and when love is mixed into the equation, it is bound to end in disaster. As Newt writes John the letter, he acknowledges the fact that he could see how others perceive he simply lives life pitying himself. However, he quickly changes course and states he found love. “Actually, I am a very lucky person and I know it. I am about to marry a wonderful little girl. There is love enough in this world for everybody, if people will just look. I am proof of that” (18). The only problem with this was Newt didn’t even have to look. By what seemed to be extreme coincidence a girl came to him and without a doubt took advantage of Newt in order to gain information on his father’s work. Zinka, the supposed 23-year-old girl, was actually a 42-year-old spy. The only explanation was she sensed the vulnerability of Newt as he longed for love, and exposed him in cold blooded form. Newt was so hopeful that he finally found love, he let his guard down without hesitation and that hurt him in the long run as he was blindsided by the end game. Relationship Development, by Rebecca B. Rubin indicates how one could possibly prevent a similar circumstance from occurring. “Research also examined five main strategies for reducing uncertainty: interrogation, self-disclosure, detecting deception, environmental structuring, and deviation testing” (Rubin). With the life that Newt lived, he had no chance of being able to gain true certainty. He was lost in the game of love all due to his vulnerability. Newt says it best as he realizes what has happened and reflects on the shattered heart of his. “In this world, you get what you pay for” (128).
How often in today’s world is true, everlasting love mistaken for infatuation? This shallow “form” of love is dreadful in our society today as it has the potential to be the origin of craziness and tinker with the already too easily conformable human mind. It truly dabbles with the concept of love at first sight and if that is a true phenomenon. John experiences this first hand when he spots a picture of Mona, or so he believes. From the instant he first laid eyes on her, the seemingly level headed John begins to think irrationally as his soul focus is grasping Mona’s attention. Under no circumstances would he have accepted the offer to become the dictator of San Lorenzo if it hadn’t been due to his clouded judgment caused by infatuation. It lowered John’s decision making and reasoning right in front of the reader’s eyes and was apparent that the deception of love mixed with his love for Mona’s looks demonstrates the effects of this fault: “The Fata Morgana, the mirage of what it would be like to be loved by Mona Aamons Monzano, had become a tremendous force in my meaningless life. I imagined that she could make me far happier than any woman had so far succeeded in doing” (85). The logic John used in his thought process is obviously flawed and exemplified by how he uses words like “imagined.” This is cause for concern as it is apparent his hope to gain Mona’s love is ruining his inhibitions. Occurrences like this are present all over in today’s world and especially in our media. Even political figures like Bill Clinton have been slain by the sword of infatuation as it caused him to commit many wrongdoings in front of a national audience. “Clinton is encumbered by history as the post-civil-rights president who bears the trauma of a degraded America” (Melissa Deem). By going against all moral codes, Clinton was caught up in the infatuation/love mess and ended up causing a mess for all of America. John does this on a much smaller scale, but in the long runs it leads to the death of Mona and the destruction of San Lorenzo. It goes to show how a simple mix up of the true definition of love can end in such heartache. Lust Balance, by Cas Wouters, shows readers how easy this mix up truly is and how it goes back to finding the fine line of what true love actually is. “The concept of the lust balance refers to the social organization and accompanying social codes (ideals and practices) regarding the relationship between the longing for sexual gratification and the longing for enduring relational intimacy” (Wouters). The apparent problem in today’s world is that so many are having difficulty differentiating the two hence the cause of all the problems as John best demonstrates.
The love of knowledge has the power to trump all other forms of love. This presents many dangers as it introduces the concept of loving non-material objects over people. This particular path is a dark, troublesome one as it leads to neglect among other fatal traits. Felix Hoenikker is the poster boy for all things neglect and is so evident through his interactions with his family. Felix seemed to be in his own little world, with no regard for human interaction and was simply concerned with whatever scientific task was directly in front of him. The duties off a father, a husband, or even a person of society completely slip his mind as Felix went about his job diligently in order to find new discovery. What was even more troubling was his obsession for knowledge that lead him to create products with the potential for mass destruction and he had not a single care or worry for this. His own children, suffered right in front of his eyes and there was not even an acknowledgment of the fact. Their own father loved not his own children, but chose his love of knowledge over them. The thought is enough to send chills down one’s spine. “ ‘He won’t come,’ Frank said, and he laughed at her. Frank was right. Father stuck his head out a window, and he looked at Angela and me rolling on the ground, bawling, and Frank standing over us, laughing. The old man pulled his head indoors again, and never even asked later what all the fuss had been about. People weren’t his specialty” (17). Felix Hoenikker is a man living with no obligations and complete disregard for others. It goes back to show each individual has the choice to chose love of something meaningful and true, such as family, or the love of knowledge that is not fulfilling. “Knowledge, love, hatred, and indifference are the differential polarities which structure the emotional systems within a family” (Love, hatred). The consensus can be made that with every obsession comes extreme dangers and Felix took no accountability for his actions which lead to the demise of those around him.
How often is the phrase “All is fair in love and war” thrown around in everyday conversation? It begs the question of what love truly is. It may be a want, a need, a desire, or maybe it’s something that can’t even be explained. The problem is that the quest to find love leads to so many more problems than there were to begin with. It metaphorically peels back layer by layer the soul of each individual giving a glimpse into the dilemmas that come from love. Cat’s Cradle by Kurt explores this thought process by using a variety of characters to dive into the concept. A kind-hearted boy in Newt gets torched at the stake simply because he is unaware of the evils of the world. Then there is John who demonstrates not all love is innocent. It can change the playing field just by the thought of falling in love based on the appearance of one. Finally, Felix shows the reader how non-material love can lead to destruction due to his neglectfulness and chosen naivety. Love is something that is suppose to be a fairytale, yet when viewed under a microscope, has the potential to be the start of one of the scariest horror stories known to this world.
Works Cited Deem, Melissa. “The Scandalous Fall of Feminism and the “First Black President”.” A Companion to Cultural Studies. Miller, Toby (ed). Blackwell Publishing, 2005. Blackwell Reference Online. 31 October 2015 “love, hatred, knowledge, indifference.” The Dictionary of Family Therapy. Miermont, Jacques (ed). Blackwell Publishing, 1995. Blackwell Reference Online. 31 October 2015 Rubin, Rebecca B. “Relationship Development.” The International Encyclopedia of Communication. Donsbach, Wolfgang (ed). Blackwell Publishing, 2008.Blackwell Reference Online. 31 October 2015 Wouters, Cas. “Lust Balance.” Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. Ritzer, George (ed). Blackwell Publishing, 2007. Blackwell Reference Online. 31 October 2015
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