Getting the Joke: The Efficacy of Science Fiction for Social Satire in Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle--with Perspective Gained from Herman Melville's "Bartleby, the Scrivener"




Osouli, Ren

Access rights

Worldwide access

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Since the start of his literary career, Kurt Vonnegut's novels have been characterized, and stigmatized, as science fiction. This thesis sets out to vindicate Vonnegut from the “hack” genre that has limited his reception, contextualizing Cat’s Cradle within the real moral and social concerns relative to the author’s own life. Vonnegut masterfully imbues this novel with satirical commentary on contemporary society, especially its increasing reliance on science and technology. I analyze his novel Cat’s Cradle in light of the work of lauded American author, Herman Melville’s short story “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street.” Evincing the parallels in social commentary and satire that place Vonnegut’s piece on par with Melville’s, I argue that Cat’s Cradle not only transcends the genre of science fiction in its moral commentary but also that this tale of apocalypse accentuates Vonnegut’s optimistic humor and approach to life. Ultimately, Kurt Vonnegut’s narrative functions on an ethical level which Melville’s neglects, such that Cat’s Cradle is able to give a vision beyond the black humor present in both pieces.



English, American Literature