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Cat's Cradle: Novel Summary: Chapter 51 - Chapter 60

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Summary of Chapter 51: OK, Mom

Jonah goes to speak to Angela Hoenikker Conners and Newt Hoenikker, reflecting on the fact that they each have a thermos of ice-nine with them, while underneath the plane is the Caribbean Sea. Hazel makes sure all the Hoosiers call her “Mom.”

Commentary on Chapter 51: OK, Mom

Angela treats the midget Newt like a child and also threatens Jonah that his book had better treat her father like a saint. Ironically, the children meanwhile carry the deadly legacy of daddy with them. One crystal of ice-nine in the sea below would end life on earth. Angela explains they are going to San Lorenzo to see their brother Frank get married to Mona Aamons Monzano. Jonah is crushed.

Summary of Chapter 52: No Pain

Jonah looks at Angela’s billfold pictures of her family, who are most of his karass. Angela and Newt tell him about Felix’s peaceful death sitting in his chair on Christmas Eve in the cottage at Cape Cod.

Commentary on Chapter 52: No Pain

Jonah realizes they are not telling all of the facts about Felix’s death. He knows it was the same night that the children divided up the ice-nine among themselves.

Summary of Chapter 53: The President of Fabri-Tek

Angela shows Jonah photos of her life—in a high school band, and her husband and kids. Harrison Connors, her husband, is very handsome while Angela is homely. Connors is President of Fabri-Tek, a company that does government weapons work. He was once a lab assistant to her father. After Felix died, he married Angela and started his company in Indianapolis.

Commentary on Chapter 53: The President of Fabri-Tek

Obviously Connors married Angela for her ice-nine. The frightening thing is that he makes weapons for the government. Like Frank, Angela leveraged her ice-nine to get some kind of life for herself.

Summary of Chapter 54: Communists, Nazis, Royalists, Parachutists, and Draft Dodgers

Jonah finds the biography of Mona’s father in Philip Castle’s book. Nestor Aamons was a Finnish architect—captured by Russians, liberated by Germans, made to work for Nazis, sent to Yugoslavia, captured by Chetniks, then Communists, then shipped to Italy where he designed fortifications. He meets the American draft dodger, Julian Castle in Portugal and goes with him to San Lorenzo to design Castle’s hospital in the jungle. Aamons marries a native woman named Celia, has Mona, and then dies.

Commentary on Chapter 54: Communists, Nazis, Royalists, Parachutists, and Draft Dodgers

Johnson’s biography is a similar one that puts him in every political situation during World War I. Aamons manages to get traded around like a football during World War II. The point is to show the comic-tragic farce of world history, with no particular meaning or progress towards rationality.

Summary of Chapter 55: Never Index Your Own Book

Jonah looks up Aamons, Mona in the index of Philip Castle’s book. In the numerous entries he reads an implied biography of the young woman as a “national erotic symbol” (p. 120) and as a student of Bokonon. He shows the index entry to Claire Minton who had been a professional indexer. She is embarrassed when an author makes his own index. It is obvious Philip Castle is still in love with Mona.

Commentary of Chapter 55: Never Index Your Own Book

Minton later confides to Jonah that Castle will never marry Mona even though he loves her and they grew up together, because his wife can tell from the index that Philip Castle is a homosexual. The index actually indicates the opposite, but Jonah is amused by the way the Minton duprass operates to protect itself. They completely believe in what the other spouse says.

Summary of Chapter 56: A Self-Supporting Squirrel Cage

When Johnson and McCabe were washed up on the island of San Lorenzo, they found an island of suffering natives. The American Castle family owned all the land and paid the laborers nothing to work on their sugar plantation.

Commentary on Chapter 56: A Self-Supporting Squirrel Cage

Philip Castle’s book describes his family’s once powerful and self-sustaining Castle Sugar Company that fed off the lives of the natives who worked for nothing. The Church ministered to the people in this “squirrel cage” (p. 124). The politics of San Lorenzo was a marriage of religion and capitalism to support the white colonists.

Summary of Chapter 57: The Queasy Dream

McCabe and Johnson took over San Lorenzo when they arrived, not a miracle because people kept taking over the worthless island, as a history of the place reveals it was regularly traded among Spanish, Dutch, and English until a Negro named Tum-bumwa declared himself emperor. Castle Sugar came after that. No one challenged McCabe and Johnson.

Commentary on Chapter 57: The Queasy Dream

Vonnegut satirizes the inhuman history of colonization with this fictitious island in the Caribbean. The lives of the natives go on being miserable, no matter who is in charge.

Summary of Chapter 58: Tyranny with a Difference

McCabe and Johnson want to make San Lorenzo a Utopia. McCabe designed the laws and economy and Johnson made up a new religion of soothing lies. Johnson “makes up lies/ So that they all fit nice/ And I made this sad world/ A par-a-dise” (p. 127).

Newt Hoenikker interrupts Jonah’s reading and asks him to go to the bar in the back of the plane with him. He tells about his “honeymoon” with Zinka, the Russian midget, in the Cape Cod cottage.

Commentary on Chapter 58: Tyranny with a Difference

Johnson (Bokonon) doesn’t mind making a religion out of lies if it will make the sad people happy. They have nothing else.

Newt Hoenikker’s story about Zinka reveals that with his ice-nine he got himself a love affair with a Russian spy. His conclusion is that “you get what you pay for” (p. 128). The Hoenikker children have no more conscience than the father and use the secret weapon to try to make up for the lives they lost. Their stories indicate that many unscrupulous people know about ice-nine or have it in their possession. The Russians, an American weapons maker, and a Caribbean dictator all have the secret weapon that could end the world.

Summary of Chapter 59: Fasten Your Seat Belts

Crosby by now is drunk and gives a lecture on who qualifies as a “pissant” (p. 129), someone who thinks he’s smart and can’t keep his mouth shut. He and Newt and Jonah all discover they went to Cornell—another granfalloon. Newt now paints pictures, believing he is an artist.

Commentary on Chapter 59: Fasten Your Seat Belts

Newt is proud of his name and tells Crosby his father is “the father of the atom bomb,” but Crosby only remembers the name Hoenikker in relation to a Russian midget spy. In terms of Crosby’s definition of pissant, both Crosby and Newt qualify.

Summary of Chapter 60: An Underprivileged Nation

The island of San Lorenzo has one city, Bolivar, the capital. On top of the old tin and mud city, McCabe and Johnson have built a false architectural face, but they have not raised the people out of misery. Papa Monzano has also failed. Everyone would fail because it is an unproductive, yet densely populated country.

Commentary on Chapter 60: An Underprivileged Nation

This chapter satirizes the perennial idealism of people like McCabe and Johnson who think that they will find the solution to the dilemma of human suffering. They promised to divide the country’s income equally, but that meant only six dollars a person.


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