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Cat's Cradle: Novel Summary: Chapter 101 - Chapter 127

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Chapter 101 - Chapter 127

Summary of Chapter 101: Like My Predecessors, I Outlaw Bokonon

Jonah writes his acceptance speech and finds it “impossible not to lean on God” (p. 225). He realizes he will also need the help of the people and sends messengers to Philip and Julian Castle who had not been invited to the ceremony. At first Jonah thinks of asking Bokonon to join his government, and of taking down the hook. He realizes that if he alters the political and moral order, he must also provide goods, jobs, and freedom. Since he cannot, “good and evil had to remain separate” (p. 226).

Commentary on Chapter 101: Like My Predecessors, I Outlaw Bokonon

Like the other presidents, Jonah has good intentions but finds he doesn’t have the power to match, so he has to give in to the way things are. Vonnegut points to the powerlessness of humans to change the nature of life.

Summary of Chapter 102: Enemies of Freedom

There was a buffet that day on the castle battlements with all the celebration guests eating delicacies, but they are all dead now, Jonah begins his narration. Frank was supervising the six planes firing on mock targets in the harbor, who were caricatures of real people, painted by Dr. Vox Humana—Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Karl Marx, and Chairman Mao. The Crosbys are delighted that the enemies of freedom are going to get it.

Commentary on Chapter 102: Enemies of Freedom

The book was written during the Cold War, so the enemies are largely communists or fascists. Jonah’s opening remarks about all of them being dead now lets the reader know that the catastrophe has begun.

Summary of Chapter 103: A Medical Opinion on the Effects of a Writers’ Strike

None of the guests knows that Jonah will be the new president. He chats with the guests. Philip Castle, who is a fellow writer, tells Jonah that he would like to call a strike of all writers until humanity comes to its senses and asks if Jonah would support it. Jonah says he doesn’t know if they have a right to strike because writing is a sacred obligation.

Commentary on Chapter 103: A Medical Opinion on the Effects of a Writers’ Strike

This is a bit of Vonnegut’s satire on his own profession. The writers agree that people would die like flies without an unending supply of books, plays, poems, and histories.

Summary of Chapter 104: Sulfathiazole

Mona does not act docile and romantic towards Jonah; she plays the hostess to all the people there instead. Jonah is trying to figure her out. Is she “the highest form of female spirituality” (p. 233) or a cold fish? He decides to remember her as sublime.

As president, Jonah is suddenly interested in Crosby building a bicycle factory in San Lorenzo to bring jobs. Julian says the people are not interested in industrialization. They just like to fish. Frank tells the Crosbys that Bokonon is against science, and they are aghast. Mr. Crosby says the drug sulfathiazole saved his life.

Commentary on Chapter 104: Sulfathiazole

It is clear the natives themselves would prefer to be left alone; they do not want progress. Science is here equated with medical miracles, although the reader seldom sees science being used in a beneficial way in this story. Generally it is a tool of exploitation, death, and politics. Jonah is puzzled by Mona’s behavior but decides to remember her as highly developed.

Summary of Chapter 105: Pain-Killer

Jonah takes a canape made of albatross meat, and it makes him so ill he runs to the bathroom in the castle below to throw up. Dr. Von Koenigswald rushes from Papa’s bedroom and asks Jonah what was in the cylinder around Papa’s neck. Whatever it was, he took it and is dead. It turned him into instant cement. Jonah sees the corpse in the golden boat, arched in his last pose of pain. His hand is at his mouth and the cylinder open. He is covered in blue-white frost. Jonah says Papa Monzano is the first man in history to die of ice-nine.

Commentary on Chapter 105: Pain-Killer

Papa takes the ice-nine as a suicidal pain-killer, thus starting a chain reaction that is about to wipe out the whole world. Jonah dutifully records the fact because Bokonon says, “Write it all down” (p. 237). Without history, humans cannot avoid mistakes in the future. This is obviously a joke because history repeats itself, and Jonah will not have an audience anyway.

Summary of Chapter 106: What Bokononists Say When They Commit Suicide

Jonah records that Dr. Von Koenigswald is the second to die. Papa’s last words were, “Now I will destroy the whole world” (p. 238). The doctor says that’s what Bokononists say when they commit suicide. He brushed his finger over Papa’s lips to see what was wrong with them. As the German puts his hands in a basin of water to wash them the water freezes and he dies where he stands and falls over, a statue. The basin of ice-nine shatters on the floor.

Commentary on Chapter 106: What Bokononists Say When They Commit Suicide

The process has begun and cannot be contained, like a nuclear chain reaction. The doctor thinks Papa’s confession only refers to himself, but it announces the end of the world.

Summary of Chapter 107: Feast Your Eyes

Jonah assembles the three Hoenikker children in Papa’s room, denounces them for their reckless possession of ice-nine, and shows them their work.

Commentary on Chapter 107: Feast Your Eyes


Newt’s reaction is to throw up.

Commentary on Chapter 108: Frank Tells Us What to Do

Newt accuses Frank of giving the ice-nine to Papa Monzano in order to get this job. Frank does not reply to that but says they have to clean up the room.

Summary of Chapter 109: Frank Defends Himself

Frank snaps his fingers: “Brooms, dustpans, blowtorch, hot plate, buckets” (p. 242). Frank is in his technical mode. When Angela accuses him, he says they all did the same thing. They used the ice-nine to get what they wanted.

Commentary on Chapter 109: Frank Defends Himself

Jonah sees Frank dissociating himself from the human drama and instead enjoying the challenge of how they will clean up the mess.

Summary of Chapter 110: The Fourteenth Book

Jonah gets the point that the Hoenikkers were not the only ones who knew about ice-nine. He wonders what hope there could be for the world now, knowing what will follow, remembering Bokonon’s term, “pool-pah,” meaning “wrath of God” (p. 244).

Commentary on Chapter 110: The Fourteenth Book

The Fourteenth Book of Bokonon says one can expect nothing of humanity, given the experience of the past million years.

Summary of Chapter 111: Time Out

Led by Frank, Jonah and the others pick up the ice-nine chips with rubber gloves and melt it in a bucket on a hot plate. As they work, the children tell about the Christmas Eve when their father died. He had told them about the ice-nine, and when they were gone, he was playing with it in the kitchen. He took a time-out to take a nap in the chair and left the kitchen a mess.

Commentary on Chapter 111: Time Out

Though Felix Hoenikker is a scientific genius, he is a careless idiot, playing with a weapon of mass destruction. In his time out, he dies and leaves the ice-nine exposed. There is obviously no safe way of handling it, for there will always be human error, as with nuclear power.

Summary of Chapter 112: Newt’s Mother’s Reticule

When the children returned to the house, they assumed their father was asleep. The boys had brought a stray dog into the house and were going to find something in the kitchen for it to eat. There was water on the floor so Newt mopped it up and threw the rag into a pan of ice-nine his father had left out. The rag became like the gold mesh of his mother’s reticule. The dog licked it and froze. They went to tell their father, but he was dead.

Commentary on Chapter 112: Newt’s Mother’s Reticule

The children covered up the secret and took the ice-nine with them.

Summary of Chapter 113: History

The clean-up crew now considers the bodies in Papa Monzano’s bedroom. They leave Papa in his bed but stand the doctor up and hide him in the closet. They think they will have a funeral after the ceremony that has been going on outside the castle. Jonah asks the Hoenikkers what they finally did with the frozen dog in their father’s house. They say they put it in the oven.

Commentary on Chapter 113: History

The Hoenikker children are arguing trying to remember whose idea it was to steal the ice-nine. They all helped, even little Newt.

Summary of Chapter 114: When I Felt the Bullet Enter My Heart

The Hoenikkers and Jonah return to the celebration on the battlements. Soldiers are building a funeral pyre that will be used for Papa later. Ambassador Minton gives a speech for the Hundred Martyrs to Democracy, saying that all war dead are “murdered children” (p. 254). He throws a memorial wreath in the sea, and the airplanes take off for the show.

Commentary on Chapter 114: When I Felt the Bullet Enter My Heart

Minton gives a lengthy anti-war speech comparing all the dead soldiers from any country to murdered children. He reads a poem against war by American poet, Edgar Lee Masters. He exhorts everyone to work “consciously and tirelessly” to reduce human stupidity (p. 255). These sentiments are not satirical and no doubt those of the author, as he was a veteran of the horrors of World War II, which he chronicles in his novel, Slaughterhouse-Five.

Summary of Chapter 115: As It Happened

One of the planes accidentally crashes into the lower part of the castle and bursts into flames, setting off its bombs. The castle begins to crumble. A crack across the parapet divides Jonah from the other guests who fall into the sea. Mona jumps across the crack to Jonah, and Frank and Philip save the Crosbys.

Commentary on Chapter 115: As It Happened

This is black comedy with Minton’s serious speech on peace followed by an apocalyptic Three Stooges disaster. So much for reducing human stupidity.

Summary of Chapter 116: The Grand Ah-Whoom

Through a gaping hole in the castle, the frozen Papa Monzano in his golden boat is launched into the ocean. The sea instantly becomes ice-nine, and the sky is filled with tornadoes.

Summary of Chapter 116: The Grand Ah-Whoom

The disaster becomes an ongoing chain reaction. The prophecy of doom is fulfilled that predicts the golden boat will be a herald of the end of the world. Papa is like Captain Ahab whose death was predicted to herald the sinking of the Pequod.

Summary of Chapter 117:Sanctuary

The remaining people scatter and enter the castle to escape the tornadoes. Mona takes Jonah to the oubliette, the underground dungeon, which Papa had made into a bomb shelter, compete with all necessities for survival. Mona and Jonah eat supper and have a glass of rum.

Commentary on Chapter 117:Sanctuary

Jonah and Mona are the Adam and Eve survivors of a holocaust. They don’t know what has become of the others but at least are together in their underground paradise for two.

Summary of Chapter 118: The Iron Maiden and the Oubliette

In their bunker, Jonah and Mona feel the torture of confinement. They cannot get anything on the radio but static. Tornadoes rattle their manhole cover. He assumes the tornadoes are spreading the ice-nine everywhere. Jonah tries to make love to his Eve, but she is repulsed because she does not want to have a baby in such a world.

Chapter 118: The Iron Maiden and the Oubliette

Jonah reads another version of creation in the Books of Bokonon in which “mud as man” (p. 265) asks God what the purpose of all this is, and God tells man to make one up. This is an existential point of view in which life has no inherent meaning.

Summary of Chapter 119: Mona Thanks Me

Jonah bicycles to pump in air for them to breathe, and on the fourth day, lifts the cover to check the weather. The tornadoes are still there but lifted to half a mile above the earth. After a while they go out to see what has happened. There is no movement: the earth is covered in ice-nine and locked up in winter. They have to be careful not to touch the ground and then touch their mouths, or they will die.

Commentary on Chapter 119: Mona Thanks Me

Adam and Eve step out onto an earth of death. Mona comments that Mother Earth is now a bad mother.

Summary of Chapter 120: To Whom It May Concern

They do not see any dead people, but they see a lavender corona on Mount McCabe, and Jonah has a notion to climb it. Mona finds a natural bowl in the earth at the top of the ridge where there are thousands of dead, each with ice-nine on their lips. It was a mass suicide, some in the position of boko-maru. They find a note under a rock from Bokonon.

Commentary on 120: To Whom It May Concern

Bokonon says whoever finds the note should know that these were the only survivors of the catastrophe, and that they captured Bokonon and commanded him to explain what God was up to. He replied God was probably trying to kill them, so they should just go ahead and die. They did.

Summary of Chapter 121: I Am Slow to Answer

They look for Bokonon, but he is not around. Mona is serene and not upset. Bokonon is obviously still alive because he always said he never took his own worthless advice. Mona laughs; it all makes sense to her. She asks Jonah if he would wish any of these alive again? He is slow to answer, so she puts her finger to the ground, touches her lips and dies. He stumbles down the road weeping and finds the Crosbys and Newt. Hazel puts her arm around Jonah and says he is with “Mom” now.

Commentary on Chapter 121: I Am Slow to Answer

In anger Jonah accuses Bokonon of being cynical to do such a thing to the people who trust him. Mona, however, seems to understand what he did as merciful wisdom and follows the rest to her ice-nine death. There is nothing left for anyone on earth. Nothing can grow. Death is only a matter of time.

Summary of Chapter 122: The Swiss Family Robinson

The Crosbys, Newt, and Frank had found a dungeon in the castle to hole up in and then moved to what was left of Frank’s house: the den, which was a sort of cave built under the waterfall, now a cave under the frozen waterfall of ice-nine. Jonah does not ask how Angela and the Castles died, for he would have to speak of Mona. The rest of them are cheerful. They call themselves Swiss Family Robinson. They have food and melt ice-nine when they need water.

Commentary on Chapter 122: The Swiss Family Robinson

Jonah is left on earth with the most insensitive human beings, the Crosbys and the Hoenikkers. They think the whole thing is an adventure.

Summary of Chapter 123: Of Mice and Men

In the next six months, Jonah writes his book. No plants and animals survived, but ice-nine had preserved what life was there until they were ready to unfreeze an animal or plant and use it. All of nature is their refrigerator. They also have canned goods. They are the only people on San Lorenzo. Hazel Crosby sews an American flag, and Mr. Crosby does all the cooking. Frank rigs up an S-O-S transmitter.

Commentary on Chapter 123: Of Mice and Men

Hazel asks Jonah when they can read his book and if it is funny. He says he hopes so. Obviously, they would not like the book since they are a subject of its satire. One wonders who Frank sends the

S.O. S. to since presumably all life on earth is dead.

Summary of Chapter 124: Frank’s Ant Farm

Hazel wants Jonah to plant the American flag on top of Mount McCabe when she is finished. Jonah watches Frank construct an ant farm. The ants stay alive by forming their collective bodies around ice-nine to heat it and melt it for water. This process kills half their number but the survivors have water and dead bodies to eat.

Commentary on Chapter 124: Frank’s Ant Farm

The ants are a symbol of the adaptability of nature and of people. Frank and the group are adapting to the new conditions without a thought of what it means or what happened. It proves the point that humans may be clever enough to adapt but never wise enough to learn from mistakes.

Summary of Chapter 125: The Tasmanians

Newt has begun painting again and asks Jonah to drive him into town to scrounge for paints. On the way, Jonah reveals he has no sex drive left. He recalls the history of the Tasmanian aborigines who were persecuted by white settlers. They just gave up reproducing.

Commentary on Chapter 125: The Tasmanians

This point brings up the idea of quality of life. Humans can keep squashing themselves down to the size of ants, but the Tasmanians, like the San Lorenzans, felt there was a point of diminishing return and gave up trying.

Summary of Chapter 126: Soft Pipes, Play On

Jonah finds out that Julian and Philip Castle died nobly by going on foot to the hospital to try to save lives. Angela had picked up her clarinet to play, and the mouthpiece was contaminated with ice-nine. Jonah wonders what would be a good symbolic way to die. He thinks of climbing Mount McCabe but doesn’t know what would be a fitting symbol to leave there at the end of the world. Just then he passes Bokonon in the car.

Commentary on Chapter 126: Soft Pipes, Play On

Jonah briefly entertains the idea of Utopia, of what might be if the world could thaw. Bokonon had already written about Utopia, exposing the sordid truth that commercialism would be the basis of any new Utopia. First there will be chain stores and after that, a Constitution. While the Castles act nobly in a crisis, Jonah does not think there is enough nobility in most of the human race to make a Utopia work. This is proved by the survivors who try to make everything as close to “normal” as possible.

Summary of Chapter 127: The End

Bokonon is sitting on a rock, his bare feet frosted with ice-nine. He has a pencil and paper. Bokonon says he is trying to think of the final sentence for the Books of Bokonon. He shows Jonah the final paragraph.

Commentary on Chapter 127: The End

The final paragraph prophetically contains instructions for what Jonah should do for his own death: write a history of the stupidity of the world, climb Mt. McCabe, lie down and make a statue of himself thumbing his nose at “You Know Who” (p. 287). This irreverent end implies God is to blame for making such a stupid thing as humans in the first place. Jonah and Vonnegut seem unable to come up with any more rational answer.




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