A stroll down main street draws the eye to a multitude of advertisements; North Americans are exposed to approximately 5000 promotions every day. It takes no profound insight to realize from these endorsements that consumer culture derives great pleasure from aesthetic appearances. Hollywood’s interpretations of the ideal human are a constant reminder of the superficial and oftentimes dystopian society of the 21st century. Physical perfection is prized above all else, leaving those who are anything less than flawless to be seen as aberrations. It is the exploitation of the vulnerable - be it through dehumanizing views of physical beauty, the abuse of atypical appearances, or the stereotyping of minorities - that undermines the integrity and equal treatment of all people in Western culture. By utilizing corporal inequalities to victimize his characters, Kurt Vonnegut asserts that the blatant acceptance of these prejudices ends in tragedy both within Cat’s Cradle and in modern society.
As the most obvious example, Mona Aamons Monzano is an aesthetically pleasing woman unhappy with her fame; she is seen as an object and is prohibited from making important decisions about her own life. Above all else, Mona is sexualized against her will. In an encyclopaedia entry detailing her life, it is indexed that she is “embarrassed by [her] role as a national erotic symbol” and has tried “to make [her]self ugly in order to stop being [an] erotic symbol” (Vonnegut 120). Evident in her attempt to deform herself, Mona strongly opposes the commodification of her body, but her protests have been largely ignored in order to keep her as
the model of beauty and idolatry for the island. To further intensify her lack of control, Mona is
objectified by Jonah, the novel’s narrator, and by the patriarchal society of San Lorenzo. Jonah admits that “every greedy, unreasonable dream I’d ever had… came true in Mona” (139) and that she was the “national treasure” of San Lorenzo (140). By her own people and foreigners alike, Mona is silenced and believed to have no individual thought. Though she is revered by San Lorenzo’s residents, it is solely for her beauty, and not for any particular measure of character or other substantive quality. Consequently, Mona’s objectification and sexualization lead to her submissive state; she is used as a bargaining chip in marriage to preserve San Lorenzo’s dictator-led system of government. In Frank Hoenikker’s attempts to coax Jonah into accepting the position of President, he confesses that it is “predicted in the Books of Bokonon that [Mona] will marry the next President of San Lorenzo” (203). Jonah is immediately willing to accept the job, directly in contrast with his previous hesitation (202-203). Mona is the turning point in Jonah’s decisions; regardless of whether she truly wants to marry Jonah or not, she will submit to the predestined regulations of patriarchal San Lorenzo. Mona is worshipped and adopted as a member of the elite...