How is Vonnegut iconoclastic in Cat's Cradle, and how does iconoclasm contribute to his theme?
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Vonnegut is principally iconoclastic in the way that he casts an ironic eye of the tremendous scientific and technological developments of the twentieth century and profoundly questions them. One of the central themes of the novel is the way that technology and the advances of man have not necessarily been "advances" at all, as they only seem to contribute to man's suffering rather than relieve him of it. This novel points out again and again the paradoxes of such scientific "advances" and "progress," as the same scientists that were responsible for antibiotics and vaccinations also created the atomic bomb and other kinds of sophisticated weaponry that allow us to kill and maim each other better and more efficiently. In the same way, industrialisation, which gave us access to inexpensive goods also brought exploitation of workers into our world.
In particular, Vonnegut is iconoclastic in challenging our view on scientific "progress" and "advances" through his presentation of Felix Hoenikker, who is a Nobel-prize-winning physicist who is shown to be a complete innocent. He is equally as fascinated with the habits of turtles as he is with the atomic bomb, and does not care for fame or money. However, it is shown that he also does not care for other people, even his family. He is presented as being harmless, but at the same time he is responsible for the invention that nearly heralds the complete extinction of humanity.
In this novel, therefore, Vonnegut is iconoclastic concerning our views of being a "developed" and "advanced" nation, whereas the very basis of that development is shown to be responsible--again and again--for the deaths and abuse of so many in the world. To what extent can we therefore really call ourselves developed?
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