Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut, 1963
The Female Man – Joanna Russ, 1970 (written)
Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut, 1972
After reading the first three parts of The Female Man, with the image of Janet playing Cat’s Cradle still fresh in my mind, I went straight to Google to see if I could find any evidence that Russ was alluding to Vonnegut’s 1963 novel. Unfortunately, I came up short. I couldn’t find anything that suggested there was a connection between the two novels despite the authors’ eerily similar style. However, even if the cat’s cradle used by Russ has no connection to Vonnegut, I still believe it has the same effect. Let me first preface my explanation with a short anecdote. Last school year, I read Slaughterhouse Five shortly followed by Cat’s Cradle (both for the same teacher, but two different classes). For Slaughterhouse Five I had to create a timeline of Billy Pilgrim’s life; not as hard as it seemed it would be. But for Cat’s Cradle, I had to create a graph of sorts; characters along a y-axis, and events/time along an x-axis. What sounded easy proved one of the most difficult assignments I had in that class. I found it practically impossible to have the right characters intersect for a certain period and part ways at the right time without crossing the paths of characters that didn’t belong or not being able to meet characters that did belong. When I was done with my graph, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that I couldn’t perfectly illustrate the events of the novel (even though my graph was by far the best aesthetically, technically, and in accuracy…just saying). After all of the irritation that assignment brought me, it dawned on me that the graph didn’t need to be 100% accurate to illustrate for me what I was supposed to gather from the assignment (which surprisingly wasn’t handfuls of my own hair). When looking at the big picture, as cliché as that sounds, the graph created a very distinct image: a cat’s cradle. I guess what I’m trying to get at here is very much what Zack was saying in class. It makes sense why Janet said the cat’s cradle was a universal symbol of peace. It represents the intersectionality of our lives–of humanity. Though our experiences are vastly different, we can each find commonalities among one another, and I guess that’s what makes us feel a little less lonely.
P.S. If you’ve read Cat’s Cradle and are feeling especially masochistic, you should try making that graph.