Literary Techniques

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 219

Patterson hints at the outcome of the story through his characters' names. Anne, the true protagonist, whose name means "grace" in Hebrew, gains strength throughout the story. She begins by doubting herself, her beliefs, her purpose, but finds her real place near the end of the story. The name Kathleen means "pure" or "virginal" in Celtic or Gaelic. Colleen is Gaelic for "girl," not usually used as an Irish given name. Deidre, Colleen's middle name, means "sorrow," "sorrowful," or "wanderer." Justin is derived from "justice."

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In an interview with Andre Bernard and Jeff Zaleski for Publishers Weekly, Patterson says that he has become aware that most people have short attention spans. "I just kept writing shorter, then cutting some chapters down, and making two chapters out of one," he says. "In my gut, it felt like this is the way it should be, for my books anyway." Many of the chapters in Cradle and All are only two or three pages. This adds to the feeling of movement, almost creating a window in time as the reader looks in on the characters.

Phrases usually associated with teenagers, such as "what's up with you?," "what a scene," "nearly tragic kicker," "it's pretty awesome," "a head case," and "bombed out of his mind," add to the youthful feeling of the story.

Ideas for Group Discussions

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Much of the story of Cradle and All depends on the mythology of the Roman Catholic Church. Church fathers are charged with explaining doctrine and dogma to the church members. Traditionally, the pope is considered by Roman Catholics to be the voice of the Trinity, the authority from God on Earth.

1. During the Middle Ages the Roman Catholic Church was the only Christian church in existence. Discuss the role religion played in the lives of Christians in the Middle Ages.

2. There are several places in the world that are considered shrines because the people believe the Virgin appeared there. Do research on some of these to find out what message, if any, is supposed to have been delivered there.

3. How did the physical appearance of each of the teenagers contribute to the confusion about which one was going to give birth to a holy child?

4. Why did Patterson use an Irish girl and an American girl as his virgins?

5. Describe characteristics of this book that you think would appeal to women readers? To men?

6. In an interview with Andre Bernard and Jeff Zaleski for Publishers Weekly, Patterson credits his awareness of how the audience responds to his books with some of the techniques he uses, particularly the technique of short chapters. He says he feel this technique helps make his books move faster, appealing to short attention spans. Discuss your feelings about the success of this technique.

7. Compare the major beliefs of three of the world's religions. What do they have in common? Where are their major differences?

8. Suggest ways the story could be strengthened or weakened using points of view not in the story, such as a Protestant minister, a Buddhist monk, or a Hindu priest.

9. Do you think the mythology of the Roman Catholic Church has outlived its usefulness?

10. Why was Justin's connection to Ireland important?

Social Concerns

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The ultimate nightmare for mankind is a world in which Satan's legions, the forces of evil, are unleashed to wreak havoc on mankind. The great and ultimate battle between good and evil, the Christ and the anti-Christ, the survival of the human race, and the nightmares envisioned by Patterson if evil triumphs are the concerns of this novel.

Cradle and All is a retelling of a long out-of-print novel, Virgin, written by Patterson and published in 1980. Many of the characters and scenes are retold and expanded. A novel for the new millennium, the book emphasizes the continuing battle between good and evil.

The good is represented by the reappearance on earth of Christ, opposing the appearance of the anti-Christ. To focus on the seriousness of this battle, Patterson introduces Father Nicholas Rosetti, a priest who truly believes in God as man's savior and the Catholic Church as the protector of good. Rosetti is immediately attacked by a voice and a presence representing the evil force, an attack both mental and physical. Rosetti is able to maintain his equilibrium because of his strong faith, seeming in the end to triumph over the evil seeking to take over the world.

Anne Fitzgerald is hired by the Archdiocese of Boston to investigate the outbreak of polio in Boston and Los Angeles and the appearance in Boston of a young woman, eight months pregnant, who claims to be a virgin. The horrors of the polio epidemic raging in Los Angeles and Boston convince Anne that an evil force has been unleashed in the world. Children are suffering and dying. Doctors are trying to ease the suffering but have no drugs or vaccines that work. Health officials have no idea how the disease is spreading or where it is coming from. The horror in the hospital in Los Angeles is enough to convince Anne that she must try to solve this mystery.

The three female protagonists, two pregnant teenagers (Kathleen and Colleen) and Anne Fitzgerald, come from different backgrounds but have the Roman Catholic Church and their virginity in common. All consider themselves "good girls," a phrase often repeated by the teenagers. Both teenage girls need protection. Anne is a protector who in the end needs protection herself. Both young girls are ostracized within their communities. Anne, a former nun, has rejected her vows and the Dominican Order. She also experiences rejection by the community because of this. Although the Beavier family tries not to judge Kathleen, they do not believe in her either. The attempt on Kathleen's life by the housekeeper who was her childhood confidante and protector is evidence of evil at work. Children born out of wedlock are tolerated but not truly accepted by many people.

Colleen experiences ostracism by her community. She has a haven within her family because her father is dead and her mother's mind has failed, leaving her bedridden and unaware of events. Colleen, only fourteen years old, is enrolled in the Holy Trinity School for Girls, a convent school, but is being home schooled during the fall semester, since the other students and their parents are not being understanding about the situation. Whenever possible, Colleen remains at home to avoid the people of the community, whose cruelty to her is both physical and mental. Colleen tries to maintain her self-confidence by telling herself that she is a "good girl." She is profoundly relieved when her pregnancy is to be investigated by a priest from Rome, thinking that at last someone believes her. Sister Katherine Dominica is more supportive of Colleen after the visit from Father Rosetti, as she naturally respects a visitor, a priest, sent by Rome.

Literary Precedents

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In 1980 Patterson published Virgin with a similar story line, many of the same scenes, and some of the same characters. Cradle and All is "an entirely reimagined version," reports Daisy Maryles in Publishers Weekly. The same article reports that Patterson has written seventeen novels that have boosted him to "one of the top six best-selling novelists in the U.S."

Patterson cites Stephen King as an author he likes to read. Charles L. Grant in Twilight Zone quotes King: "Almost all horror stories mirror specific areas of freeforming anxieties." Patterson says his stories are meant to reflect our deepest fears. King compares the violence in fairy stories, such as Hansel and Gretel, in which the witch states she is going to eat the children, implying cannibalism, with events in his sto- ries. He concludes that his books have a milder form of violence and horror than many fairy tales. The Three Billy-goats Gruff is the inspiration for King's book entitled It. Lines from nursery rhymes provide titles for a number of Patterson's books.

Some of the psychological ploys used in Cradle and All are similar to those used by Dean Koontz in his thrillers. Rape and murder threaten Hilary Thomas, female protagonist in Whispers, by the villain in spirit form. The supernatural plays a large role in the events in this book, as it does in Cradle and All. Both use various forms of sadism practiced on women to build the climate of terror that drives the stories. In an interview with Sean Mitchell for the Los Angeles Time Magazine, Koontz says, "I think we're here for a purpose. . . . That's why I could never write cynical books or the classic hard-boiled book where it's all despair and we all die and it's meaningless." The ending for Cradle and All shows good and evil still at odds in the world, leaving humanity with the choice between the two.

Adaptations

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Cradle and All is published as an audio book by Time Warner AudioBooks, read by Ally Sheedy and Len Cariou.

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Characters