By Voonnegut Kurt
By Voonnegut Kurt
Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indiana in 1922. Kurt’s father was a wealthy architect, though the depression hit the family hard and Kurt was forced to attend public school, unlike his siblings who had attended private school. He worked for his high school newspaper, and after graduating, he attended Cornell University where he studied biochemistry at the urging of his father and brother. Vonnegut had little interest in science, however, and wrote for the Cornell Daily Sun. Cornell considered expelling Vonnegut for poor grades, so he enlisted in the US Army, which is where he gained a lot of influence for his subsequent writings, especially his most well-known foray, “Slaughterhouse-Five” (1969).
During the 1950s and 1960s, Vonnegut became known for his satirical, dystopian literature which often poked fun at the world’s real issues. In 1963, he published “Cat’s Cradle”, a novel which took jabs at the arms race, science, technology, and religion amongst others. Vonnegut became inspired to write “Cat’s Cradle” when he worked for General Electric; his job was to interview scientists, and he observed that the older scientists seldom put much thought or importance into what their inventions may be used for. In “Cat’s Cradle” the fictional inventor of the atomic bomb is playing a game of cat’s cradle when the bomb is dropped on Hiroshima. In doing this, he seems carefree. Vonnegut submitted “Cat’s Cradle” as his thesis for his Master’s in Anthropology, after his original idea had been declined; the novel earned him his degree in 1971.
John is a writer who began to write a book about the day the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. He set out to interview his friends, the Hoenikker children, about their father Felix who was responsible for inventing the bomb. He also interviewes a man named Asa Breed who worked in Felix’s lab; Asa tells him about an isotope Felix supposedly created called “ice-nine” which has the power to, at a drop, turn anything consisting of water into ice. After John sees an ad for an island called San Lorenzo he knows he must go there; he falls in love with the girl, Mona, from the ads. Also, Frank Hoenikker lives there, though everyone thinks him dead. He takes a job writing about a man named Julian Castle who built a hospital on the island.
Once he arrives on the island John finds out about the illegal religion of the native, Bokononism, which nearly everyone practices, though not publically. It was the work of a man named Bokonon who arrived on the island years ago with his friend McCabe who took over the government; now Mona’s adoptive father “Papa” Monzano is in charge. Monzano is dying, and Frank is expected to become the next president and marry Mona. But Frank does not want such a public role due to his social anxiety, so he offers the job, and Mona, to John. On the day that John is to announce his presidency Monzano kills himself with ice-nine from Frank Hoenikker, and his body helps to spread the ice-nine all over, essentially killing everyone except for a handful of people. John decides “Cat’s Cradle”, the story of Bokononism and ice-nine, will make a better book so he begins to write.
The major theme of this novel is man’s inability to understand the power of science fully, despite craving this power. Monzano even tells Frank that he wants him to be president because he has the science and needs to share the science with others. Felix and Frank are both so into science, despite not realizing the devastating power they possess that they are unable to form meaningful human relationships due to their social anxieties. Man’s relationship with science is built on greed and is often careless; this is evidenced by Frank giving Monzano the ice-nine and Felix playing cat’s cradle when the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
The notion of free will is a funny one, because the characters all believe they have free will but according to Bokonon their destiny is already written. Bokonon knew that if he made his religion illegal everyone would follow it, just like he knew at the end of the novel that if he told people that God wanted them dead they would take their own lives. While the people believe they are making their own choices, Bokonon is making their choices for them; he is “playing God”. Even John feels as though something drew him to the island that was beyond his control.
There seems to be an overwhelming obsession for humans regarding what is “true”. To many people, science is the truth because science has to be proven; religion may feel true, but it cannot be because it cannot be defined. Miss Faust gives an example when she is speaking to John; Asa Breed asked her to say something true and she said “God is Love” but when he asked her to define “God” and “love” she could not. Therefore, her statement is not one of fact. Within this novel, science seems to be the way of uncovering the truth, while religion seems to be composed of lies, and openly so.
What is good? And what is evil? Within this novel, there is a juxtaposition of good and evil shown in many ways; is science good or evil? What about religion? Both things can be seen as good and evil at the same time; it depends on who looks at it. Science can be evil because it causes destruction and chaos, while it is seen by some as good because it creates power and knowledge. Religion can be seen as good because it creates a sense of inner-peace and unity amongst people, but it can be seen as evil because it eliminates a person’s free will and possibly brainwashes them.
While science is based on truth and knowledge, it is not portrayed as being as useful as religion which is based on lies. In the Books of Bokonon, Bokonon prefaces his writing by stating that everything within is based on lies; John points out that if a person does not think that lies make a decent religion then they will not like his book. The lies created by Bokonon make people feel better about the meaningless lives they are living, whereas the truth discovered by science reminds people of the sad and greedy world they are all a part of.
Bokononism is a parody of the various religions in the world and exposes the ridiculousness of people putting all of their belief into something which cannot be proven. Bokonon admits freely, and even warns people, that his stories and religion are based entirely on lies; however, no one cares about the lies; they are just happy to have something to believe in and distract them from the realities of life. Bokonon serves as a God-like deity to the people of San Lorenzo as they take his suggestions as the final word, as though they have no free will to make their own decisions; he invents lies to give hope.
John describes the interpersonal relationships of the novel in Bokononist terms. He notes that groups of people who stick together form a karass and those people have a purpose in life which they may not even be aware of, and certainly no one else is aware of. Outside of the karass are less significant groups of people with a more superficial bond; these groups are called granfalloons and include political parties and Hoosiers. People who were concerned with anything outside of their karass were made fun of, while the Mintons, who only cared about one another, seemed to represent the ultimate karass–or dupress, as there were only two of them.
Destiny goes along with free will in the context of this novel. It seems as though destiny has somehow brought all of the characters together on San Lorenzo for the end of the world. This is ironic, as John was writing a novel about the end of the world though his was based on the atomic bomb. It is unknown whether people create their own destiny based on knowledge, or whether things just happen. Bokonon prophesized about the future, which was common knowledge. So did people create their own destiny by making his prophesies come true? Or did he truly control their destiny?
People attempt to create their own happiness out of desires but are often left feeling empty still. Frank desired the ability to control the entire world, which he received when he found his father’s ice-nine. Angela and Newt desperately desired human companionship, so they fell in love with people who were using them for their ice-nine, completely oblivious to the ill intentions. Each of the Hoenikker children was presented with the opportunity to have what they wanted, but when they got it, they found that life was still not satisfying.
Julian Castle has exceptionally strong views on the meaninglessness of human life and the actions which humans partake in; he sees this in Newt’s painting of a cat’s cradle and proves his point by throwing the painting into the waterfall. Newt agrees, which is why he painted the cat’s cradle; he was showing the meaninglessness of the games adults teach children which will in no way prepare them for anything in life. People only pursue certain avenues in life in order to brag to other people about their pursuits because actions have no real meaning; Felix’s awards displayed in his office are an example.
John, also known as Jonah, is the narrator of the novel but is rather insignificant to the entire plot other than being the messenger who tells the story. He had met the Hoenikker children when he was writing a book about the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, as their father had invented the bomb. He ends up writing a much more compelling story about the day the world ended, due to another of Felix Hoenikker’s inventions. John eventually ends up in San Lorenzo with the Hoenikkers where he converts to Bokononism and witnesses the destruction of ice-nine in careless hands.
Bokonon’s birth name was Lionel Johnson and he was a black man who accidentally crash-landed his ship on San Lorenzo when he and McCabe were trying to get to Miami. Bokonon saw that the island was destitute, and the people were extremely poor. He created his own religion called Bokononism, which was wholly based on lies with the purpose of giving people hope and happiness to distract them from the realities of life. He became a deity for the people of San Lorenzo, and they listened to him, believing him to be an instrument of God.
Frank Hoenikker is the oldest son in the Hoenikker family. He developed social anxiety and a love for science, just like his father, which caused his peers to call him “Special Agent X-9” in school. Frank liked to build models and dreamed of having total control over the world. When he became involved with a car theft ring in Florida it was assumed he had been killed, but he turned up on San Lorenzo where he was accepted because his father won a Nobel Prize. He became engaged to beautiful Mona and was next in line to be president of the republic.
Felix is the father of Frank, Newt, and Angela and the husband of Emily. He is a famous scientist who has created two weapons capable of destroying the entire world: the atomic bomb and ice-nine. Felix is entirely consumed by science and is totally socially inept. He shows little care or affection for his family members, especially his beautiful wife Emily who dies giving birth to Newt. He forgets ordinary things in life, like how to drive, and he finds himself getting distracted by meaningless activities such as cat’s cradle. When he dies his children end up with the dangerous ice-nine.
Angela Hoenikker is the oldest of the Hoenikker children and she is over six feet tall. When Emily died Felix removed Angela from her sophomore year of high school to care for the family. Angela had no friends while growing up and spent all of her time playing the clarinet, which she does quite well. Desperate for human companionship, Angela fell in love with an extremely handsome and charming man named Harrison C. Conners, unaware that he was just using her for ice-nine. She carelessly uses her clarinet after the ice-nine spreads and is killed instantly.
Newt is the youngest of the Hoenikker children and is the same age as John. He is considered a midget at only four feet tall and has the same desire as Angela; he craves human companionship. Newt flunks out of Cornell and falls in love with a Russian dancer named Zinka who uses him for his ice-nine, as Harrison was doing to Angela. Newt spends his time making oil paintings of cat’s cradles to illustrate the futility of the people’s actions.
Emily Hoenikker was the mother of Frank, Angela, and Newt and the wife of Felix. She died while giving birth to Newt, which Asa Breed thinks is because of a pelvic injury she suffered some years before when she got into a car accident. Emily was exceedingly beautiful and extremely unhappy as Felix did not pay any attention to her. It was rumored that Emily was having an affair with Asa—whom she had dated before she married Felix—and that Asa may be the father of her children. Felix did not even bother to buy a tombstone for Emily’s grave, so the kids used Felix’s Nobel Prize money to purchase an extravagant twenty-foot marker.
Asa Breed is a scientist who works at the same lab that Felix Hoenikker worked at. When John was writing his book about the day the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, he interviewed Asa, though Asa did not want to answer many questions because he thought John would portray scientists in a negative light. Asa told John about Felix’s idea to create ice-nine, though he denied that Felix had succeeded in doing so. Asa was in love with Emily and was rumored to be the true father of her children.
Monzano is the dictator of San Lorenzo and the adoptive father of the beautiful Mona, whom he only adopted because he thought her beauty would win him popularity. When John arrived on San Lorenzo, Monzano was dying of cancer and wanted Frank to secede him as president. He is a cruel and greedy man who showers himself in luxury as the other people of San Lorenzo live in poverty all around him. He believes in Bokononism though he prosecutes others who believe. He ends his life with ice-nine when he is driven out of his mind with pain from the cancer.
Mona is the beautiful, adopted daughter of “Papa” Monzano; her birth father was a Finnish architect called Nestor Aamons. John saw a photo of Mona and instantly fell in love with her; he took a job writing an article about Julian Castle just so he could visit the island and meet her. Bokonon prophesized that Mona would be married to the future president of San Lorenzo. This was supposed to be Frank, but John gladly took over the position, so he could marry Mona.
Julian Castle was an immensely wealthy man who had spent the first forty years of his life living frivolously. He created the Castle Sugar Corporation on San Lorenzo, though he gladly shut it down when Bokonon arrived with the notion of creating a utopian society as the corporation was not making a profit anyway. He then turned to a life of charity and built a hospital for the people of San Lorenzo. John’s purpose on San Lorenzo was to write an article about Julian, though he decides to leave out Julian’s philosophy on the meaninglessness of life.
Philip is the son of Julian Castle. He was friends with Mona from a young age, and they were engaged for a brief time. Philip wrote an unpublished manuscript on the history of San Lorenzo, which John read on the plane. On the island Philip built a hotel called the Casa Mona, and he created a mosaic of the beautiful Mona inside the hotel. Claire Minton makes the observation that Philip has a strained relationship with his father, is in love with Mona, and is a closeted homosexual, after she reads the index to his manuscript.
Lowe and Hazel are a couple who John met on the plane to San Lorenzo. Their purpose on San Lorenzo is to find a place to set up their bicycle manufacturing business, free from the labor regulations of the United States. They are gossipy, telling John about punishment on San Lorenzo via “the hook” and the rumor that Horlick Minton is a Communist. Hazel is obsessed with Hoosiers, who have achieved success, which is her granfalloon, according to John.
The Mintons are a dupress, a karass made of only two people, who John meets on the plane to San Lorenzo. They seem mostly concerned with only each other, which John notes is a sign of their strength. Horlick is set to be the American ambassador to San Lorenzo and when they arrive he gives a speech about the dangers of patriotism. Claire Minton introduces John to the manuscript of Philip Castle, which teaches him about the history of San Lorenzo and Bokononism.
John, or Jonah, is the narrator of the story. As a Christian, he has started to write a book called “The Day the World Ended” about the day the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima; now he is a Bokononist. Bokononists are organized into teams called karasses and the people on these teams do not know what knowledge they are carrying. The Bokononist manuscripts all start out with a disclaimer that the stories within are comprised of lies; John thinks that everyone should appreciate that religion is sometimes based on lies. When John was researching for his book, he came about the karass he belongs to, comprised of siblings Angela, Frank, and Newt Hoenikker. Their father, Felix, is one of the men responsible for inventing the atomic bomb. John asks Newt what he remembered of the day the bomb dropped, and he answers that he recalls his father playing cat’s cradle at their home in New York.
Felix had been inspired to build the bomb by a prisoner, who sent him a manuscript about the end of the world and who envisioned a weapon which could wipe out all of humanity. Felix did not read the book but was intrigued at the idea as well as the string that held the book together. He would often get distracted in his research, but the kids would keep him on track. When the bomb was first tested another scientist told Felix that science has now encountered sin, and Felix simply asked the man what sin is. Newt wrote John a letter from Cornell, where he had failed all of his classes, stating that he was engaged to a Russian dancer named Zinka, who was a midget, just like him. John read in the paper soon after that Zinka was 42, not 23, and that she had returned to the Soviet Union. John scheduled an interview with Dr. Asa Breed who works in the lab where Felix had worked. The night before his interview John finds a prostitute named Sandra and a bartender who knows Frank; they said he is a recluse and is known as “Special Agent X-9”.
John’s new acquaintances tell him that Felix was set to give the commencement address at Frank’s school but did not show. Another scientist spoke instead and claimed that science would discover the key to life someday in the future. Sandra says that a certain protein had been discovered, which is considered as the “basic secret” to life. The day the bomb dropped, a bum came in and thought the world was ending and Asa Breed’s son quit his job at the research lab because he thought everything science created would end up as a weapon. Apparently there are rumors going around that Asa Breed had an affair with Felix’s wife Emily and her children may be his.
The next morning John meets with Asa and gets a tour of the laboratory. Asa tells him that once Felix left his car in the middle of the road, and Emily had to come get it; on the way home she got in an accident and her pelvis was crushed. Asa thinks that the injury is what caused her to die while giving birth to Newt. In the lab, the secretaries are often teased for their lack of understanding, and they believe that the scientists spend too much time thinking. John asked Asa some questions about the day the bomb was dropped, and Asa immediately got defensive and uncomfortable; he commented that people believe scientists have no morals now and do not appreciate research. His “noble goal” is to increase the amount of knowledge that mankind can comprehend.
According to Asa a general had once asked Felix to create a way to eliminate mud, because his troops were always getting stuck in it. Felix determined that he could form a new isotope of water which he would call “ice-nine” which could remain solid at a room temperature. If a seed of that isotope were dropped into some mud, then the water in the mud would take on the quality of the isotope and would freeze over. The conversation is interrupted by some of the girls who work at the lab, the “Girl Pool”, who began singing as though part of a choir.
After the interrupted John returns his attention to Asa, horrified by the thought of such a powerful isotope; he asks Asa what would happen if the invention were implemented and Asa tells him that not only would the mud freeze but every source of water on earth because it is all connected. Even rainwater, if it were to fall, would turn into ice the second it came into contact with the ice-nine. John wondered whether Felix had ever actually created this seed, and Asa furiously denied it and then called off the interview, obviously uncomfortable with John’s line of questioning. John learned that Felix had created this isotope, which would melt at 114 degrees Fahrenheit. He had shared this information with his children while they were vacation in Cape Cod for Christmas, just before he died. Each of the children had taken a sliver for themselves, and John believes that after he spoke with Asa the isotope became the secret thing around which his karass revolved.
Miss Faust, one of the secretaries, gave John a tour of Felix’s lab. There were toys everywhere and plaques on the wall. She says that Felix was not truly known by many people because he was not concerned with people; he was only concerned with “truth” though she doesn’t think that is enough. Felix had once challenged Miss Faust to make a statement of truth to which she replied “God is love” but when he asked her define God and Love she could not. In the elevator, John asked the attendant, Knowles, if he knew any of the Hoenikker children and he says they were “babies with rabies”. Next John heads to the cemetery to take a photo of Felix’s grave. He sees that Emily’s tombstone is massive in size, reads “Mother”, and has poems from Angela and Frank engraved on it as well as baby Newt’s handprint. Felix’s tombstone, however, was only a small marker with the word “Father” engraved on it.
John pays a visit to Martin Breed, Asa’s brother and the owner of the tombstone shop. He is told that one year after Emily’s death Angela and Frank came by with baby Newt and purchased the grave marker. They used Felix’s money from winning the Nobel Prize to do so, as he had never bothered himself. Martin admits that he had been in love with Emily when they were children and had even taken up playing the violin to impress her, since she was a talented musician. Asa ended up taking Emily away from him, and then Felix took her away from Asa. After Felix created the atomic bomb, Martin had a hard time viewing him as “harmless”. He thinks that Felix has always been dead because he did not care about anything other than his work; not even his beautiful wife who was terribly unhappy. Martin told John that Frank did not even stay for Felix’s entire funeral. He now is a wanted felon who belongs to a car-theft ring in Florida. John finds this hard to believe, but Martin assures him that it is true, though he suspects that Frank has been killed by now for knowing too much. Newt was born a midget, but Angela was over six feet tall. She never had any friends, as Felix pulled her out of her sophomore year of high school to care for the family when Emily died, and she spent her time playing the clarinet in her room. John notices a stone angel carved by Martin’s grandfather and wonders if there is anyone left who can make such intricate carvings. Martin says that Asa’s son can, as he became quite the sculptor after quitting his job at the lab.
John went to interview Jack, the owner of the hobby shop where Frank had worked before he fled to Florida. Jack also believed that Frank has been killed by the people who run the car theft ring in Florida. When John sees one of the models that Frank built, tears come to his eyes because he is upset that anyone would kill a person who could create something so beautiful. While John was in Ilium, New York he allowed a poet named Sherman Krebbs to live in his apartment in the City. Upon returning John found that his cat was dead, there were hundreds of dollars of long-distance calls on his phone bill, and his apartment was destroyed. John decides that Krebbs is a wrang-wrang, which is a bokononist term for a person who has pushed you away from a line of thinking; Krebbs pushed John away from nihilism.
At a later time, John found a tourism ad for San Lorenzo, which was an island republic. He fell in love with the photograph of Mona Aamons Monzano, adopted daughter of “Papa” Monzano the dictator of San Lorenzo. There was also a photo of the island’s Minister of Science and Progress, Major General Franklin Hoenikker. There was an essay with the ad, presumably ghostwritten, detailing Frank’s voyage to the island; he sailed in from Cuba with no passport and was jailed. When “Papa” Monzano found out he was the son of Felix Hoenikker he was released and was warmly welcomed into the society. John took a job writing an article about a man named Julian Castle, who created a hospital for the destitute on San Lorenzo, and who was an alcoholic womanizer. His own child Phillip owned the hotel where John would be staying. John dreamed that Mona would fall in love with him on his trip.
On the plane to San Lorenzo, John was seated next to Horlick and Claire Minton; Horlick was the newly assigned American Ambassador to San Lorenzo. John thinks that they are in a two-person karass because they did not pay attention to him at all, even when he tried to speak to them. John headed to the bar where he met a man named H. Lowe Crosby and Hazel his wife. Crosby was moving his bike business to San Lorenzo, and Hazel was excited to find out that John was from Indiana, just like her; she told him to call her “Mom”. Hazel talked a lot about Hoosiers and John believes her fascination with Hoosiers is indicative of a granfalloon; which is a false karass like political parties or nation-states. Hazel was happy that most of San Lorenzo is Christian and that the language is English. There is a remarkably low crime rate on the island, which Lowe attributes to their use of “the hook” for punishment; when someone commits a crime he or she is impaled. Lowe muses that “the hook” would probably not work as well in a democracy, but perhaps a democratic society could bring hangings back to scare off potential juvenile offenders. Lowe and Hazel had been to the Museum of Horrors where they had seen “the hook” as well as a statue depicting a man who was burned to death for the sin of killing his son, which it was later learned he was not guilty of.
John learned from the Crosby’s that Horlick had been fired by the Department of Defense for not taking a firm stand against Communism. When John returned to his seat, he asked Horlick about it, and Claire told him that it was her fault. She had written the New York Times a letter from Pakistan, saying it is a shame that Americans were constantly searching for a love that just did not exist. The letter happened to be published during the height of McCarthyism; Claire was guilty of not implying that everyone loves Americans regardless of their offenses. John was given by the Mintons an as-of-yet unpublished manuscript by Philip Castle called “The Land, the History, the People”. John read about Bokonon and learned that he was born Lionel Boyd Johnson on the island of Tobago and his parents were wealthy Episcopalians. He attended school in London and then participated in World War I. After being discharged, he attempted to sail to Miami with a man named McCabe but shipwrecked on San Lorenzo where the locals called him Bokonon. The natives painted Bokonon’s ship gold and slept in it; he prophesized that it would sail again someday when the end of the world comes. Hazel comes to tell John that there are two more Hoosiers on the plane; Angela and Newt Hoenikker.
John recalls angrily that Angela and Newt were both transporting their ice-nine, but he did not know it then. Angela tells him that she is sorry for not writing to him about the day that the bomb dropped. But she was told by Asa not to help him because Asa believed John was trying to damage Felix’s reputation. She and Newt are traveling to San Lorenzo to celebrate Frank’s engagement to Mona; the girl John fell in love with from the picture. Angela shows John her photographs, and he is shocked to find that she is married to a devilishly handsome man named Harrison C. Conners. He once worked as Felix’s assistant in his lab, but now he is the president of a company called Fabri-tek which engages in top-secret arms research.
Back to Philip Castle’s book, John finds out that Mona’s biological father was a man named Nestor Aamons who was a Finnish architect. Julian Castle commissioned him to design his hospital in San Lorenzo. On the island, he married a native woman and fathered Mona, though he died shortly after her birth. There are many references to Mona and Nestor throughout the book. John learns that Monzano adopted Mona because she is beautiful and he wanted her beauty to help increase his popularity. Mona grew up on the grounds of the hospital and was close friends with Philip, to whom she was engaged for a short time. Bokonon tutored Philip and Mona when they were children, and Mona became horrified about being a sex symbol; she did everything in her power to make herself ugly. Claire interrupts John’s reading to tell him the dangers of a person indexing their own books, as Philip did. She said that she could tell from Philip’s index that he was insecure about his own father, that he was in love with Mona, and that he was a homosexual.
John continues to read the book and learned that when Bokonon landed there the natives were all poor and disease-stricken. Julian Castle had built a sugar corporation, and, between that and the Catholic Church, there was no land left on the island, though Castle’s sugar corporation made no profit. There had been no liberty on the island for a long time, though when Castle built his corporation there was no government at all. McCabe and Bokonon stepped up to be in charge of the island, and aimed to make it a utopia. Castle did not mind because his business was not making a profit anyway. Bokonon created a new religion and McCabe worked on the economy and legal system. As John’s plane lands on the island Lowe tells everyone what a “pissant” is and is excited at having found out that he, Newt, and John all attended Cornell. When Lowe learns Newt’s last name, he asks if he had anything to do with the Russian dancer who was supposedly a spy. But Newt promptly changes the subject.
When John looks out the plane window he notices that San Lorenzo still appears to be quite poor, aside from a grouping of modern buildings at the capital city of Bolivar. Despite McCabe and Bokonon’s attempts, they have not been able to improve the quality of life for the natives. John notices that there are signs up all over the place declaring the practicing of Bokononism to be illegal activity, and other signs with a picture of Bokonon and the offer of a reward for his capture whether he is dead or alive. When they get off the plane Mona, “Papa” Monzano and Frank were all waiting for them. “Papa” is much older than John expects him to be and appeared to be quite ill. Mona meets up to all of John’s expectations, and he describes her as the embodiment of what all male fantasies are about. Monzano greets Lowe particularly warmly, obviously believing him to be the ambassador, until Lowe directs him toward Horlick. Monzano tells Horlick that the next day will be a holiday honoring the Hundred Martyrs to Democracy, which Horlick lies and told him every schoolchild in America knows about. Monzano collapses to the ground and whispers that Frank will be the president after he dies because Frank has science on his side, and “ice”.
Monzano is taken away, and John and the Crosbys head to their hotel. They ask the cab driver about Bokonon who says that he is a terrible man and quite possibly a Communist. John also asks the driver about the Hundred Martyrs, and he learns that, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the island of San Lorenzo declared war on Germany and Japan sent a ship with one hundred people to America. The ship of Japanese was sunk by Germany just as it left Bolivar; the dead soldiers became known as the Hundred Martyrs to Democracy. When they arrive at the hotel, they find that they are its first guests ever. Crosby tries to talk to a guy who is making a mosaic of Mona, but the man is rude and short with him. John tries to ask the man questions too but is treated just as flippantly. John soon realizes that the man is Philip Castle, the author of the manuscript that John had been reading on the plane and proprietor of the hotel.
Crosby tries to talk to the clerk at the hotel about the artist’s rude behavior, but the clerk informs him that the artist is the man who owns the hotel. Crosby immediately decides to leave the Casa Mona and stay at the American Embassy. John finds his hotel room to his liking except that he discovers there is no toilet paper in the bathroom. As he wanders around the hotel looking to ask a maid for toilet paper, he finds two employees sitting on the ground with the soles of their feet pressed together. The workers beg John not to tell anyone what he saw because they would be punished with “the hook”. John had walked in on a Bokonon ritual known as boku-maru.
When Philip was the age of fifteen, San Lorenzo was overcome by the bubonic plague, which was brought in by a German ship which had wrecked on the island. Philip came to the hospital to help his father one night but found that all of the patients were dead. Julian started laughing uncontrollably and told Philip that someday it would all be his. While Philip is telling John his story, Frank calls John’s room and asks to speak to him immediately. John goes to Frank’s house, which is designed by Nestor Aamons, to meet with him. Frank is not there, but Newt is sleeping out on the terrace where he has been painting; the artwork is all black with scratches which resemble a spider’s web. When Newt wakes, he tells John that the painting is of a cat’s cradle, which has neither a cat nor a cradle, so he can see why it would drive children nuts.
When Angela and Julian arrive John asks Julian about his supposed interest in Albert Schweitzer. Julian tells John that Schweitzer is not a hero but Jesus Christ is, and Schweitzer is the person who taught him that. He also mentions that Newt’s painting seems to represent the meaninglessness of life; John points out that Julian has just been talking about Jesus but Julian replies that people only talk to exercise their voice boxes. Julian tells John that he finds humanity useless despite the so-called knowledge they possess; when Newt agrees with Julian, Julian throws Newt’s painting off the terrace and into the waterfall below. John realizes that if he were to write an article about Julian, he would have to concentrate on the man’s charitable work, because his philosophy on life would probably not be hugely popular.
Julian tells John that when Bokonon and McCabe started building a new economy they soon realized that they could not end the poverty of the people; instead Bokonon created a religion which would make people more comfortable. Bokonon made his religion illegal on purpose because he knew it would generate interest in it. Bokonon went into hiding when executions began happening, and McCabe, despite the fact that it would be easy, did not turn Bokonon in. When McCabe died, Monzano took over he continued doing executions from time to time to keep up the charade. After having a few drinks, Angela begins to rant about the world not appreciating her father, and Newt suggests for her to go play her clarinet to make her feel better. When she leaves, Newt explains that she knows her husband is cheating, and it makes her upset; John is surprised by this news. Julian reads a poem by Bokonon and tells John that all copies of Bokonon texts are handwritten. Newt dismisses the idea of religion entirely, holds up his hands, and says, “See the cat? See the cradle?”
Frank calls his house and asks that John stay there until he gets home and can speak with him, but he would not tell John why over the phone except that it is related to Monzano’s impending death and John’s role in it. Julian tells John that Monzano has terminal cancer and his doctor worked at Auschwitz for six years; he joined Julian’s staff at the hospital on San Lorenzo to atone for his sins. Julian comments that it would only take until the year 3010 for the man to save as many lives as he took. The soldiers at the training camp on the island, Fort Jesus, are digging holes when the power goes out on the island; they would say that they were just protecting Monzano. John feels uneasy and quells the feeling by listening to Angela and Newt discuss Felix’s siblings; a twin brother and a sister. John also spends some time reading Frank’s copy of the Books of Bokonon. They all fall asleep and are jarred awake when the lights come back on; Angela and Newt begin running around like crazy with their thermoses containing ice-nine, though John is not aware of it yet. John looks outside and sees Frank standing there with Mona, tinkering with a generator. John decides he must have Mona.
Frank tries to speak to John about his destiny, man-to-man. He tells John that he wants John to be president when Monzano dies, rather than him. Frank does not feel comfortable with the public, just like his father, and thinks John would do a better job. John tells Frank that he does not want the job, but Frank is desperate to pawn the job off on someone else. John begins laughing at the situation, and Frank gets upset because John’s laughter reminds him of the days that his peers called him “Secret Agent X-9”. John points out how ironic it was that the people who used to pick on Frank were probably blue collar workers now, while Frank is a Major General about to become the president of a republic. Frank points out that they would have been shocked to know he is sleeping with Jack’s wife when he works at the hobby shop, too. Frank tells John that the Book of Bokonon prophesized that Mona would someday marry the future president of the republic so if he takes the job he would get Mona as well; John then accepts the job.
Mona and John perform the boku-maru ritual together and then declare their love for one another. John tries to tell Mona that she cannot perform the ritual with anyone else, but she does not respond well; she calls him a sin-wat, which is a person who demands all the love of another, and she tells him that she will not marry him. John takes back what he said and becomes a Bokononist from that day forward; he learns that Bokononists hold nothing sacred at all except for humanity. John and Frank visits Monzano the next day to get his blessing for their plan. There is a Christian minister there to perform a chicken sacrifice as well; he has to create new rituals because Catholicism and Protestantism are outlawed on the island. When they go to see, Monzano he is laying on the gold bed made from Bokonon’s boat and wearing a necklace that contains ice-nine, though John does not know at that time. Monzano gives his blessing and asks that John kill Bokonon and Frank educate people through science because it is the truth. He sends the minister away.
Monzano wants John to kill Bokonon, but he still wants Bokononist last rites given to him. Dr. Koenigswald agrees to perform the rites, but he feels he’s betraying science by doing so. He believes religion is based on lies, and he thinks about the legend of the creation of the earth while he does the boku-maru with Monzano. John asks Frank for some advice for the upcoming announcement of his presidency. Frank does not want to help John beyond anything that his job description as the minister of technology demands of him. John quickly realizes that in agreeing to Frank’s plan he’s giving him everything that he’s ever wanted; Frank would be able to have all of the comfort and honor he can want and still avoid all human responsibility just like his father.
John briefly considers changing the entire tone of the island when he becomes president. He wants to outlaw “the hook”, allow Bokononism, and maybe even put Bokonon in a government position. He soon realizes that he cannot provide for the people of San Lorenzo and neither can Bokonon, so he would have to go about business just as the other leaders had and the people of San Lorenzo will continue their balance and battle of good versus evil.
Time comes for the ceremony of the Hundred Martyrs of Democracy, and the tables are all full of albatross and “rum” which is just acetone. John gets sick from the albatross meat and refuses to wash it down with the rum though Lowe indulges in the alcohol heavily. Cardboard cutouts of various world leaders and philosophers float in the water and will be used for target practice, much to Lowe’s appreciation. No one knows that John is about to be declared president and Julian and Philip are surprised to be there, since they had been enemies of Monzano for a long time. Mona shows no emotion about Monzano’s impending death and no affection toward John; he wonders whether she’s a vision of spirituality or frigid. Frank speaks to Lowe and Hazel about Bokonon and his refute of science, which disappoints them because doctors saved their mothers.
John is terribly sick from the albatross and heads toward the restroom. On his way Dr. Koenigswald runs from Monzano’s room, hysterical, and demanding to know what had been on Monzano’s necklace. Apparently Monzano swallowed whatever was in the tube around his neck and had instantly turned into a statue. When John sees Monzano’s frosty, blue body he knows immediately that he must have ingested ice-nine. John recalls that Bokonon thinks everything should be recorded so the same mistakes are not made more than once, so he writes down that Monzano was the first person to die of ice-nine. Dr. Koenigswald had touched Monzano’s lips after he died and then washed his hands; he becomes the second person to die from ice-nine. John, now knowing ice-nine exists, calls Angela, Newt, and Frank to the room to admonish them for being so careless with it. John comes to the realization that Zinka got ice-nine from Newt and Harrison got it from Angela; therefore it is in the hands of others. In the Books of Bokonon, he states that a thoughtful man can hope for nothing on earth.
Angela, Newt, and Frank tell John that they had learned of ice-nine on the Christmas before their father died. Felix had made some ice-nine in the kitchen and fell asleep before he cleaned up his mess, and he never woke up. Each of them had taken a piece of the ice-nine before cleaning up, though none of them knew why. John and the others take a break from the hefty conversation to attend the ceremony of the Hundred Martyrs. Horlick rises and begins to speak about how honoring fallen soldiers is not a patriotic thing to do, as soldiers who die are no more than murdered children. It would be best if war never happened. Then there would be no reason for patriotism to begin with. Horlick believes that the viciousness of humanity should be worked on, rather than celebrated. As he is giving his speech the air force fires at the cardboard cutouts.
One of the planes firing at the cutouts catches on fire and crashes into the cliff over Monzano’s castle, causing one of the towers to break off and cause a rockslide. The rockslide first kills the Mintons and then sends Monzano’s body free, which spreads ice-nine and freezes the entire world in a matter of seconds. Tornadoes spring up over the sea, and John and Mona hide in the underground bomb shelter to wait them out, and to pass the time they have crazy and furious sex. After that, John begins reading the Books of Bokonon; he sees that the first page displays a warning that the contents are based on lies. It states that when God created humans out of mud they asked him what their purpose was; he asked them if they needed a purpose, and when they admitted they did, he told them their purpose was to find a purpose. When the weather improves, John and Mona leave the underground and climbe to the peak of Mount McCabe. There they can see thousands of frozen citizens of San Lorenzo and a note from Bokonon himself. He said the people who survived wanted to know why God did this to them; he told them that God was trying to kill them, so they should just die, and so they did.
John expresses his anger over the cynicism of Bokonon. Mona just laughs at John and asks him whether he would want any of the dead to be alive again; when he did not answer she brings a piece of the ice-nine to her lips and dies. Lowe and Hazel find John and take him to what remains of Frank’s house where Frank and Newt are waiting; Angela died when she tried to play her clarinet that had some ice-nine on the mouthpiece. Philip and Julian die as well; they were trying to help people at the hospital. John, Lowe, Hazel, Frank, and Newt spend the next six months melting ice-nine to make water, eating food out of cans, trying to send an SOS signal, and sewing an American flag. John spends most of his time chronicling the events that would become “Cat’s Cradle”.
Frank finds some ants which had survived and created an ant farm for them; he’s interested in watching them adapt to the new environment that ice-nine created. Frank asks John some questions about the ants, and John gives flippant answers, though Frank tells him that he is not a child anymore and will not accept silly answers. John replies that Frank that he grew up and dealt with his own social anxiety by killing every other person in the world. Newt and John comment that they have lost all sexual urges now that there are no childbearing women around, as reproduction is the purpose of sex anyway. John meets Bokonon later as he’s writing the final entry in his Books. He writes that had he been younger he would have written about the stupidity of humans. He then killed himself with ice-nine and thumbed his nose at God.
One day in July Timothy and Phillip are collecting scallops when there is a loud noise out at sea that Timothy is explains is a storm coming, possibly a hurricane. They stop collecting scallops and head back to their camp to make preparations for the coming storm. Timothy ties their belongings to palm trees and leaves a rope to tether himself and Phillip to a palm in case the waves rise too high for them to stand. Timothy says that the sea has become angry because of the war and that is what has brought on the freak storm out of season. Phillip worries for Stew but Timothy assures him that Stew will make his way up a tree when the weather gets bad. Timothy tells Phillip that the last time he saw a storm like this one it was 1928 and he is the only one from his ship, the Hettie Redd, who survived it. Later in the day Phillip and Timothy have their fill of fish because once the storm is over it could be a week or more before the fish come back near the island. Timothy places his knife in a box and ties it to the tree; he and Phillip are ready for the storm now.
When it becomes dark that night, the air begins to get heavy and breeze comes through the island. When the rain starts, the hut fills with lizards trying to get away from the storm and Phillip knows that the storm is about to get bad. As the waves start crashing into the hut, the entire hut blows away. Timothy covers himself, Phillip, and Stew to shelter them from the storm for the next couple hours before he decides that they will be safer tethered to the palm. While they are tied to the tree, Timothy blocks Phillip with his body and takes the brunt of the storm, until the eye passes by. Phillip and Timothy sink to the ground and Timothy is exhausted, hoarse, and moaning in pain. When the storm begins again, Timothy shields Phillip’s body just as he had done before though Phillip can still feel the effects of the rain and he blacks out. When Phillip regains consciousness he sees Timothy lying on the ground barely breathing and he notices that Stew is missing. Phillip unties himself and Timothy and holds his friend’s hand. Timothy’s back is badly cut up from the storm and is losing a lot of blood, but Phillip cannot do anything to help. Phillip lies next to Timothy and falls asleep; when he wakes Timothy is no longer breathing. Phillip is too emotional to even cry and just falls back asleep. When Phillip wakes again, he hears Stew. Phillip holds the cat close to him and cries because his friend is dead and he is stranded on an island blind and alone.
Phillip decides to give Timothy a proper burial. As Phillip digs the grave for his friend, he finds that he is angry with Timothy for leaving him alone on the island. The more he thinks about it the calmer Phillip gets because he knows that Timothy did everything he could to keep Phillip safe and prepare for him life on his own should it ever come to that. Phillip thinks that being blind helps him to accept the loss of his friend because he has already experienced loss and learned to cope with it. After Phillip buries Timothy, he gets to work on rebuilding his camp. Phillip cleans up any debris that is in the way and retrieves the items that Timothy had tied to the trees which includes the keg, the knife, and some fishing poles. As Phillip gathers palm fronds to make a bed out of, he finds that he is grateful to Timothy for teaching him how to get around the island on his own these past couple months. It is not long before the birds start to come back onto the island, but they are protective of the new home they built and attack Phillip when he gets close to them. Stew defends Phillip and kills the birds, but Phillip is not upset with the birds because he understands their drive to survive and protect what is theirs.
Ten days pass after the storm and ten more pebbles have been added to the pile. Phillip has been eating nothing but fish, and he decides to try to find something different, so he heads to the reef to look for langosta. Phillip looks around in the water for a while before he actually dives in, and he catches a langosta on his first try. Phillip is excited and decides to try for more, but after a few more dives he is empty handed. Phillip tries one last time and searches in a hole that he thinks there may be langosta hiding in but when he reaches in something clamps onto his arm. Phillip has to struggle before he can get his arm free and when he emerges from the water he finds that his arm is bleeding from whatever had ahold of him, which he assumes to be a moray eel. Phillip’s arm is not badly injured, but he knows that he will not stick his arm in any more holes searching for langosta.
Phillip finds that his senses have become heightened since he has been forced to fend for himself. Phillip is able to feel and hear everything around him, including the sound of Stew’s paws as he walks nearby. It is August when Phillip finally hears the roaring sound of an airplane engine flying near. Phillip wastes no time lighting the signal fire though the plane does not appear to take any notice because it flies on by. Phillip is upset when the plane leaves because he feels that he may have missed his chance to be rescued. Phillip believes that he may be burning the wrong thing, as wood burns a light smoke and he may need to create darker smoke for future planes to see him; Phillip thinks that if he uses bunches of oily sea grape from the water it will burn darker, and he feels hopeful with this knowledge.
It is August 20 when Phillip hears some explosions nearby. He thinks that it may be ships battling not too far away so Phillip lights the signal fire once again. This time after Phillip sets off a couple signals he hears a plane coming near. He lights one more signal and sees the plane closing in on the island, and he yells to Timothy that “they’ve come”. The plane circles the island once more but rather than landing to rescue Phillip it flies away again. Phillip is discouraged and thinks that the pilot probably mistook him for a native because of his darkened skin color. Phillip speaks to the place where Timothy is buried and asks why he couldn’t have gone with him.
That afternoon Phillip hears the sound of a boat approaching with bells and whistles sounding. Phillip is ecstatic because he knows that his black smoke had worked despite his belief that it had not. The voice that comes from the boat is American, and the person who belongs to the voice helps Phillip and Stew aboard. Just as they are leaving, Phillip remembers Timothy’s knife and asks if one of the soldiers will go back and get it for him. The captain asks Phillip questions about how he got to the island and when Phillip says that he had been on the S.S. Hato the captain is shocked because that ship had gone down nearly five months earlier. Phillip is taken to a hospital in Panama and is reunited with his parents who flew in to greet him. Phillip’s parents are shocked to see him there alive, and his mother profusely apologizes for making him get on the boat in the first place. Phillip wants to tell his parents about his friend Timothy, but he has a difficult time talking about him.
Several months after he is rescued Phillip has surgery on his eyes and is able to regain his sight. Phillip and his family continue living in Curacao, but he finds that life is not the same as it was before he was stranded. Phillip hangs out with Henrik still from time to time, but he feels like he has nothing in common with his old friend anymore, he even feels older. Phillip does spend time with the West Indian guys near the bay because they were friends with Timothy and they are the only ones he really feels comfortable speaking to about Timothy. When Phillip’s father is done with his work, the family leaves Curacao to head back to the states. Phillip spends a lot of time studying detailed maps of the Caribbean because he is determined to someday return to the island to visit Timothy. He would not know what the island looks like but as soon as he closes his eyes and feels his surroundings he will know he is there.
Wu confirms what Blomkvist and Armansky have already told the police, that Salander is very intelligent and very private. Bublanski and Modig want to look for alternate suspects but the other protest this development. Hedstrom is especially upset about the turn of events and decides that while everyone has promised not to reveal any information to the press he is going to do just that. He calls his journalist friend Tony Scala and tells him to write a story about Wu and Salander being lovers and their involvement in S&M. He also wants the story to be written as though the informant was female. Paolo Roberto has done research on Salander’s case in the library and wonders if there is anything he can do to help. Wu has been harassed by reporters at her apartment all day and just barely leaves before Blomkvist gets there to see her. Bublanski tells Modig that she is being accused of leaking information to the press, but he does not think that she did. Bjork is worried by what Blomkvist has told him, and he calls his ex-boss who confirms that he did make sure that Bjurman would be Salander’s guardian. He says Salander is nothing to worry about because she will soon be institutionalized again. Bjork still worries because he got Bjurman the police report from 1991, when Salander was committed, and that police report, if found, would connect Bjork and Zala.
For the seven days immediately following Mia and Dag’s murder Salander confines herself to her new apartment and watches everything she tried so hard to protect being broadcast all over the news. She listens when Dr. Teleborian is interviewed and finds it funny that he never mentions how the kids who seem out of control at St. Stefan’s are strapped down and put into sensory deprivation. She was sent to St. Stefan’s after “All the Evil” happened and no one would listen to her when she tried to explain what had happened. On Salander’s thirteenth birthday, she is strapped to her bed and decides she will no longer communicate with the doctors, only with the nurses and other staff. When she is fifteen she is released into foster care. Salander is confused about why the police report from 1991 is staying hidden because it details “All the Evil” and would confirm her violent past; there must be a reason it is being hidden.
Salander leaves her apartment dressed as Irene Nesser. She breaks into Bjurman’s apartment and finds the keys to his cabin, sure that he is hiding secret files there. Later that weekend, Salander reads more things about Mimmi in the news and vows to investigate the reporters, especially Tony Scala, when everything is over. Blomkvist is called to Millennium offices to meet with Erika Berger and her friend, professional boxer, Paolo Roberto. Paolo reveals that he knows Salander, as she was trained in boxing at his gym. He knows her as a person and is sad to see how she is being portrayed in the media. He wants to help her case in any way that he can.
Blomkvist tells Paolo that if he wants to help then he can start by finding Mariam Wu and telling her to talk to Blomkvist because she seems to think that he is just another reporter. Bjork is very stressed out because he does not want it to become public knowledge that he pays underage girls for sex. He knows that Bjurman and Dag were both looking for Zala and wonders how this fits into their murders; he contemplates calling Zala himself. Salander looks into Blomkvist’s computer and finds a note from him stating that he thinks Bjork and Zala are connected; Salander knows that Bjurman and Bjork are connected. She tells Blomkvist this fact and also tells him that he needs to find the police report from 1991. Salander proclaims her innocence in the murders of Dag and Mia, but Blomkvist wonders if she did kill Bjurman. Salander purchases rope and electrical tape under the disguise of Irene Nesser and scopes out Sandstrom’s apartment. Modig is beginning to think that Salander did kill Bjurman but not Dag and Mia. According to Faste, Dag’s cell phone records indicate that he phones Bjurman only one half hour before Salander was seen in his neighborhood on the night he was killed. Blomkvist wonders if Bjork has any information about the missing police report seeing as how he is part of the Security Police.
Ever since Dag was murdered Sandstrom has been in a state of panic. He was happy to find out that Dag was killed, at first, because he thought maybe he would not be exposed if Dag’s book could not be published. Then he worried that someone may find Dag’s research and think that he killed him to keep the information under wraps. Sandstrom returns to his home around midnight and he is tased in the back by Salander. When he comes to he is tied up in his living room, and his mouth is taped. Salander tells him that he needs to share everything he knows about Zala, or she will taser and choke him to death. Sandstrom says that after he learned about the story from Dag he called men he knew worked for Zala, the Ranta brothers, and told them about Dag’s story. Paolo Roberto is standing outside of Mariam Wu’s apartment as he has been stalking it, waiting to speak with her.
Paolo sees Miriam walking up to the street and is about to get out of the car to speak with her when he sees a van pull up, and the blond giant reaches out and pulls Miriam into the car. Paolo follows the van and the battery on his phone dies just as Blomkvist is calling. Erikkson calls Blomkvist and tells him that he has found out how Bjurman and Bjork know one another, they both worked for the Security Police and Bjurman worked in immigration. Paolo follows the van to a warehouse with other cars parked out front and sees the blond giant carry Miriam into the building as a man with a ponytail drives the van away. Paolo follows them into the building and sees that the blond giant is threatening Miriam with a chainsaw for information on where Salander is. Paolo comes out into the open and the blond giant recognizes him; the two box but Paolo is no match for the huge man, and his punches have no effect.Miriam manages to kick the giant in the crotch and then Paolo hits him with a wooden plank which takes him down. Quickly, Paolo and Miriam flee to the car and escape. The giant cannot believe he was beaten and knows that his nose is broken. He wants to follow the escapees but knows he has to clean up first. Blomkvist meets Paolo and Miriam at the hospital where Miriam is resting, and Paolo is waiting to tell Blomkvist what happened.
The police follow Paolo’s directions to the warehouse and find that it has been burned down. They are on a mission to find the blond giant, the ponytailed man, and Zala. It is agreed that none of the information will leak to the press, but Hedstrom immediately goes to Tony Scala and Modig is blamed, once again. Salander is dressed as Irene, heading to Bjurman’s cabin. The blond giant is upset that things are not going as planned and he did not want any connection between Zala and Bjurman, though Zala only sees it as another chance to hurt Lisbeth Salander. The night of the murders the giant was at Bjurman’s house when Dag called to ask about Zala. When the giant realized that Bjurman knew too much he killed him, then he went and killed Dag and Mia and accidentally dropped the gun. As the police examine the warehouse rubble, they find bodies buried. At Bjurman’s cabin, Salander finds the original police report and also learns that Bjork is the one who had her institutionalized. She leaves the cabin carrying the most important of the papers. Mage Lundin and Sonny Niemenan are waiting for her; she maces Lundin and shoots him in the foot with Sonny’s gun after she tases Sonny. She then takes the gun and rides off on Lundin’s motorcycle.
Blomkvist goes to meet Bjork who agrees to spill the beans on Zala as long as Blomkvist promises that he will not be exposed for his participation; Blomkvist agrees but has every intention of publishing the book anyway. The police head to Bjurman’s cabin because they heard a report of shots fired; they find Lundin and Sonny both there wounded. Holmberg reads the files he finds inside and then calls Bublanski to inform him that Salander was there, injured two men, and stole a motorcycle. Salander leaves the bike at an amusement park and walks home. Bjork tells Blomkvist what he knows about Zala (Alexander Zalachenko); he was born in 1940, his parents died in the Battle of Stalingrad when he was only one year old, and he was taken in to a Russian military orphanage where he was given military training at a very young age. When Zala was eighteen he joined the GRU, the Russian military intelligence, where he was one of the star agents. He made a misstep in 1976 and ended up in Sweden, offering Russian secrets in exchange for asylum from the Security Police. Bjurman and Bjork were Zala’s first contacts within the Security Police, and they built their careers around his information.Blomkvist tells Bjork he thinks Zala killed Dag and Mia, but Bjork insists it cannot be, as Zala is in his 60’s and has an amputated leg. When Bjork refuses to reveal Zala’s Swedish identity Blomkvist decides to go visit Salander’s original guardian, Palmgren.
When Bublanski and Modig continue their search through the warehouse rubble, they find even more bodies and decide that Salander probably was not responsible for the murders she is being accused of.The blond giant is waiting at Lundin’s house, feeling uneasy, when he hears that Lundin has been arrested and he flees Lundin’s home just before the police arrive. Blomkvist goes to see Palmgren and after assuring the man he is friends with Salander he asks about Zala. Palmgren reveals that Zala is Salander’s father. He and Salander’s mother, Agneta, were never married but had twin girls, Lisbeth and Camilla. Agneta’s last name was Sjolander, but she changed it to Salander because “sala” was like “zala”. Agneta was abused terribly by Zala and one day, after a particularly bad beating, Lisbeth saw Zala outside their apartment in his car and threw a milk carton filled with gasoline, and then a lit match, into the car. Zala was burned badly and needed to have his leg amputated, Salander was committed to a mental institution, and Agneta never recovered mentally and was put into a nursing home. She realizes that Zala must have covered up the beatings to make Salander seem crazy. She is determined to find the blond giant and make her lead him to Zala. Blomkvist, still speaking to Palmgren, decides he also wants to find Zala.
Salander feels terrible that Mimmi is in the hospital; she thinks it is all her fault for giving Mimmi her old apartment. She wants to visit Mimmi, but when she sees a police car she turns around, goes home, and cries. In the morning, Salander sees that Blomkvist has left another message for her on his computer; he knows about Zala and also about “All the Evil” and he wants to be of help to her if she will let him. She messages him back to thank him for being a good friend to her. Salander gets by Milton Security’s surveillance and borrows a car from them. She sets out on her mission armed with mace, a taser, and a PDA. Blomkvist is scared for Salander and scared of what she may do so he plays detective and finds out where her new apartment is; and he still has her keys. Salander plays detective as well and finds out that the blond giant is Ronald Niedermann but the only address she can find for him is a post office box. She drives to the post office and stakes out Niedermann’s box.
When Blomkvist enters Salander’s apartment the alarm sounds and her PDA alerts her that someone has entered her apartment; this means the intruder will be hit with a paint bomb soon. Blomkvist thinks fast for a password and decides on 9277 because those are the numbers that spell “wasp”, Salander’s hacker name. Salander is amazed when her PDA does not beep anymore because it means that someone has cracked her password. She pulls up surveillance cameras on the PDA and sees that it is Blomkvist; she is nervous that he will know her secrets now, but she thinks that she can trust him with them. Paolo Roberto has also done some research and found out the blond giant’s true identity and also learns that he has a disorder that causes him to feel no pain. Eriksson calls Blomkvist and tells him what Paolo has found out. Blomkvist is still in Salander’s apartment, and he feels an intense loneliness for her and is horrified when he finds the DVD of Bjurman raping her which she had kept in her desk drawer. Eriksson contacts Blomkvist with more information linking the blond giant to a man named Karl Axel Bodin whose PO box had an address linked to it. Blomkvist thinks that Salander must have the same information and be headed to Bodin’s house now. Salander, dressed as Irene Nesser, sees a young man go to the PO Box and follows him home where the mailbox reads “K A Bodin”. Blomkvist is on his way to Bodin’s house via train but fears that he is too late. As Salander watches the farmhouse she sees the blind giant come out followed by Zala who is limping on a crutch; she heads toward them through the woods.
Salander hides out in the barn next to the farmhouse until it is dark. She enters the house, it is unlocked and there appears to be no one inside. Niedermann appears and grabs Salander; she tasers him, but he does not even flinch. The giant smacks Salander to the ground and she sees Zala standing in front of her. He says that she set off all of their motion sensors, and they have been watching her in infrared cameras all day. Zala tells Salander that he is going to kill her and that Niedermann is her half-brother and is also Zala’s partner in numerous illegal enterprises such as the sex trade, drugs, and arms; Dag and Mia were very close to finding out about the whole operation. Salander feels that it is her fault Dag and Mia were killed as she is the one who gave Dag Bjurman’s name so she could find out how Bjurman and Zala were connected. Niedermann carries Salander to a freshly dug grave, but she throws dirt in her face, hits the gun out of his hand with a shovel, and runs before he can do anything.Zala shoots Salander while she is running away, in the hip, the shoulder, and the head. He kicks her body into the grave and is happy she is gone; he tells the giant to bury her.
Salander is still alive, though Zala and Niedermann think she is dead. She begins to dig her way out of the grave using the cigarette case that Mimmi gave her for her birthday. When she gets out she rests near a chopping block and hears Zala walking toward her. She manages to pull the axe out of the block and hit Zala in the face with it. Niedermann had been sleeping but wakes when he hears Zala screaming. Zala falls into the shed and Salander takes his gun, both of them bloody and weak. Niedermann is shocked to see Salander alive and narrowly escapes a bullet she aims at him. Salander locks Zala in the shed and runs into the farmhouse where she gets a glass of water and realizes that she has a hole in her head and may die. Niedermann sees a car coming down the street and flags it down for help; little does he know the driver of the car is Blomkvist who recognizes him. Blomkvist gets Niedermann down on the ground at gunpoint, ties him up with a belt, and forces him into the ditch. Blomkvist finds Zala in the shed and then runs into the house where he sees Salander on the floor. He thinks that she is dead until she barely opens her eyes and says his name.
Vin sits in her room, studying the stacks of papers she has there. OreSeur is there with her, and they talk about the religious beliefs of the kandra. They practically worship the Contract above all else, the agreement they have with their human masters. Meanwhile, Elend discovers that some of the wells in Luthadel are being poisoned by someone, probably one of the armies outside. Vin talks to Dockson, and in the conversation, she determines that he can’t be the spy. She and OreSeur turn their attentions toward a new option: Demoux, a captain of the guard.
Elend works to find a way to convince the assembly to name him king again, while Vin wants to tell him her theory about Demoux. Tindwyle gets upset with Sazed when she finds out that he helped write part of the laws Elend put into place a year ago. Vin leaves the group and finds Zane, who immediately attacks her. She thinks he wants to spar, like before, but the fight becomes aggressive and Vin must fight him to survive. Zane tells her that he was ordered to kill her and that this attack was a warning. There are also many refugees coming from the koloss army, on their way to seek refuge in Luthadel. After giving his two warnings, Zane leaves.
Vin tries on another custom-made dress. Tindwyl tells her that Elend has nearly learned as much as he can from her; he’ll now have to learn to be a good leader through experience. Elend prepares his armored escort and carriage to go and see Cett. Breeze decides not to go, since he and Cett have history, which would only make the situation worse. When Elend and Vin actually enter the keep Cett is staying in and talk to the man, they discover just how sincere he is. He doesn’t want his daughter back, trusting that Elend will take good care of her. Cett wants Elend to step down from the election for king, and in return he won’t have Elend killed when he is made king. They also talk about the fact that no atium was found in all of Luthadel. Finally, Cett dismisses the two.
Sazed wanders through warehouse full of refugees from the koloss attacks, trying to help and health where he can. Tindwyl comes in and talks to him. She wants to see what he’s found–the rubbings he’s been transcribing. Meanwhile, Breeze has been listening in on the conversation, soothing both people in a way that would make them more friendly to each other. He walks among the refugees, trying to sooth away bad emotions and make them feel better. Elend and Ham come in, and Elend wants to make sure all the people have the clothes they need. Later, Breeze goes into the keep and has a secret meeting with Clubs. Though they always seem to hate each other, they drink together and talk; they’ve struck up a strange companionship. Allrianne walks in and tries to steal Breeze away. Vin, watching from outside, discovers that Allrianne is a rioter, since she was rioting Breeze’s emotions. She and OreSeur then go to find Demoux, still certain that he is the kandra spy. They find him in a little meeting of the church of the Survivor. He can’t be a spy, Vin decides. Then who is?
Sazed and Tindwyl sit together in the study, pouring over the rubbings, searching their metalminds for any references to the deepness or Hero of Ages. It’s morning, meaning they’ve been at it all night long. Tindwyl knows the course of actions Sazed takes is different from what the keepers want, but she is willing to stay with him and study these things further. Meanwhile, Elend and Ham walk along the wall. Ham comments that Elend looks more kingly than ever. As they walk, Elend announces that he has an idea to help Luthadel’s situation.
Vin, Elend, and the rest of the crew arrive early for the day of the election for king. Before the voting begins, Vin, trying to figure out what Elend has up his sleeve, discovers that he has joined the church of the Savior, in an effort to curry votes from the skaa members of the assembly. Suddenly, a groups of allomancers attack Elend and Cett. Vin manages to fight off the men, getting badly hurt in the process. After the fighting, the vote is moved to a more secure location, and the assembly members each announce their vote. Surprisingly, Penrod, a nobleman from the assembly is chosen the new king. Elend hands over his crown and leaves.
Straff Venture is angry that Zane sent a group of his allomancers to their deaths while Vin still lives. Zane promises that he has a plan to take care of her. Meanwhile, Straff meets with Penrod, the new king of Luthadel. Penrod is planning to give Luthadel to Straff, opening the gates to him and handing over the kingship. Straff, on the other hand, doesn’t want to enter the city while Vin still lives. Later, Zane tells Straff that he has been poisoned again. Zane leaves, and Straff is forced to ride hard back into the camp so his mistress can make him another antidote tea.
Vin awakes to see that Elend is with her. He tells her that he is not king, and he reports that OreSeur, who was badly hurt in the fight, is currently digesting a new set of bones. Vin feels that Elend is now scared of her somehow because of the way she fought those allomancers. Vin goes back to sleep, and awakes to find Zane there. He accuses her, saying that she could have killed those attackers easily had she not been so distracted with protecting Elend and other innocents. Later, OreSeur visits Vin, in another dog’s body. They talk more about the Contract that binds all kandra. Vin uses brass and duralumin to push strongly on OreSeur’s emotions. Even though he at first does not react at all, with enough force, Vin hurts him very badly, and she felt like she were controlling him for a moment. She apologizes for hurting OreSeur, and he leaves to get some rest. Vin promise to never tell anyone what she’s discovered about kandra.
Sazed and Tindwyl continue to talk about the things they are learning. Something doesn’t make sense about the rubbings, written by Kwaan. It seems that Kwaan did not trust Alendi, but he also knew Alendi was a good man. But if Kwaan knew Alendi was good, why did he have his nephew, Rashek, to mislead or even kill Alendi? Elend comes in and asks for advice. After a discussion, he decides that being king isn’t about a title, but about doing something to help others. He returns to his closet and retrieves the white suite, the one made for a king.
Elend is hard at work, helping the people. He’s sending men out to dismantle the wooden parts of keeps and houses to use as firewood. The many refugees are cold and hungry, and he wants to help them. Someone comes with news that one of the gates under the river has been broken. That is how someone has been getting into the city and poisoning the wells. Also, other reports say that an Inquisitor is lurking about the city. Elend decides to go out and talk to Jastes, with the koloss army, himself. He rides out and meets Jastes, unable to make any kind of deal. On the way out, Elend manages to fight and kill one smaller koloss, earning the sword and pouch as his own. He looks into the pouch and discovers how Jastes is controlling the koloss. He’s paying them.
Vin sees Elend, now returned from his meet with the koloss army, inured and resting. Zanes comes and says that Cett was the one that planed the attack at the voting ceremony. Vin gets angry and decides to attack Cett. Zane and Vin attack the keep that Cett has been staying at in Luthadel. Together, they kill guards and hazekillers. Fueled by rage, Vin kills quickly, working her way to Cett’s room. She realizes that Zane is using atium, while she has none, and yet she’s killing just as easily as he is. They finally get to Cett’s room, where he is with his son. Vin fights them at first, but when she discovers that neither of them is an allomancer and that Cett doesn’t have a single allomancer with him, she leaves them behind, injured and scared.
The crew sees that Cett’s army is now leaving, a result of Vin’s attack on his keep the night before. Elend does not know why Vin attacked Cett like that. Some in the crew think she’s crazy, but Elend just sees her as determined. They also discover that the “coins” Jastes has been using to control the koloss are fake, wooden coins painted gold. Elend goes to find Vin, who is hiding in the city. He finds her with OreSeur’s help. She says she must leave Luthadel and go north, to Terris. Elend says he trust her to do the right thing. They have one large bead of atium, and Vin gives it to OreSeur to hold for her.
Sazed and Tindwyl compare notes, studying the rubbing and other references they’ve managed to find. Tindwyl admits that she doesn’t believe in these prophecies, her interest in them being purely academic. Sazed, on the other hand, thinks Vin might actually be the next Hero of the Ages. While they talk, they discover that someone–or something–has torn a piece from one of the transcription pages. Vin comes in, while they try to figure out at what point were they both gone or occupied to not have seen an intruder going through their things. Vin asks Sazed how she can know if she’s in love. They talk about trust. After Vin leaves, Elend comes in and starts asking similar questions. Elend thinks he and Vin are too different to make a couple, but Sazed says that, to him, they are more alike than they think. After Elend leaves, Sazed realizes that Luthadel is going to fall soon; he needs to get both Elend and Vin out of the city before that happens.
Sazed calls a meeting with the members of the crew: Dockson, Breeze, Ham, and Clubs. He doesn’t invite Elend, Vin, or Spook. They talk about how the city is sure to fall. Straff apparently is in no hurry to take Luthadel. Instead, he’ll back off and let the koloss attack the city first. The koloss will win and enter the city, pillaging as they go. Then, with the koloss weakened and tired from the fight, Venture will ride in like a hero and save the city, defeating the koloss and taking Luthadel for himself. Sazed says that Elend and Vin need to get out of the city before these things happen. He wants Spook and Tindwyl to go with them. The rest of the group will have to stay and fight and die. Meanwhile, Vin feels she must follow the drumming she hears all the time. In Straff’s camp, Zane is attacked by his father’s men. He defeats them, but spares his father. He leaves, saying that tonight he will take Vin with him and leave Luthadel. He tells Straff that he should wait for the koloss to attack and then take the city.
Vin is in her room with OreSeur when Zane visits. He wants her to come with him, but she says she can’t because she doesn’t want to leave Elend. When Zane sees that she won’t go, he attacks her. They fight. When Zane starts to burn atium, Vin asks OreSeur for the large bead, a bead Zan had given her before. OreSeur doesn’t respond to her command. Vin discovers that OreSeur is not OreSeur. He is TenSoon, Zane’s kandra. Of course! There was no other spy. The bones they found were TenSoon’s and he had killed OreSeur! Zane corners Vin, but Vin uses a massive soothing to take control of OreSeur/TenSoon and attack Zane from behind. She then cuts the bead of atium fro TenSoon. But this is another trick. The bead is lead, with only a thin layer of atium. Soon, Vin is left helpless against a Mistborn killer with atium. Vin decides that Zane can see what she’s about to do, or, rather, what she plans on doing. If she attacks without thinking, though, she can, see in Zane’s reaction what she is going to do, only to change it at the last possible second. The trick works, and Vin defeats Zane. After Zane dies, she thanks OreSeur/TenSoon for helping her win. His contract is void, and he must return to his people. Vin goes to find Elend.
Elend is in his study when Vin comes in, bloody from her fight with Zane. She tells him that she killed him. He calls for Sazed, who comes to help with the wounds. While she is there, on the ground, she asks Sazed if he knows any wedding ceremonies. Of course, he knows hundreds. Vin asks which one is the shortest, and Sazed recalls one that only requires a declaration of love between the bride and groom before an ordained witness. Vin and Elend both say that they love each other, and Sazed declares them married. The wounds are clean, and Sazed sends Vin to get some rest. He also gives them a fake map to find the Well of Ascension. If the couple follows the map, they’ll be gone from Luthadel for a long time.
Elend and Vin prepare to ride out of the city. Tindwyl decides to stay in Luthadel. Spooks gets ready to go, and Allrianne will ride out, at Breeze’s insistence. So the four of them ride out, Vin quickly having to fight pursuers from Straff’s army. Once they are free, Allrianne breaks off to find her father’s army. Meanwhile, some of the crew watch as the escape, now sure of their own coming doom. Straff Venture hears of the escapes, but he has problems of his own now. He’s getting sick, which he knows is the result of poisoning from his son, Zane. He sends for his mistress, Amaranta, to fix him an antidote, but he discovers that she isn’t preparing what she normally does. She is actually killing, as she has for a long time. There never was any poison. Zane never tried to kill his father. But Amaranta, in her constant fixing of teas for Straff, has been causing him to become addicted to a rare drug. Without that drug, Straff will die. Straff, in a rage, kills Amaranta and then swallows as much powder from her medicine cabnet as he can, hoping to accidentally swallow some of the drug he needs before he loses consciousness.
Allrianne has made her way to her father’s camp, with the help of some bandits she’s tamed with her rioting. Her father, Cett, is not happy to see her. She convinces him to go back and join the winning party in the battle that is to come, although Cett promises that will likely be Straff. Meanwhile, Elend wakes up on the third morning out of Luthadel. He and Vin share a tent now, and he finds himself surprisingly comfortable on the hard ground, with Vin next to him. They get up and prepare the fire. It’s just the three of them: Elend, Vin, and Spook. Meanwhile Straff wakes up in bed. His men have taken care of him, and they’ve isolated the plant he needs to stay alive. When he hears that Vin and Elend have left the city, the men ask if they should attack now. Straff says no; they should pull back and wait for the koloss. Sazed meets with the others to plan a strategy for when the koloss attack. They plan to have a group of men at each gate. Saze and Tindwyl get a little time together, but then the warning drums begin to beat.
Vin is thinking about how the mist is staying later and later every day, instead of just disappearing with dawn, when she feels the pulsing of the mist spirit coming from Elend’s tent. She runs in, just in time to see the outline of that spirit lift some kind of knife to attack Elend, who is sleeping on the ground. She attacks the spirit and it disappears. Elend wakes up and never knows what was happening. She leaves Elend to sleep a little more and goes out to speak with Spook. He thinks someone is following them. Meanwhile, Sazed and the crew get ready, since it looks like the Koloss are about to attack. Men are at each gate, with one crewmember there to help. Straff sees that the koloss are attacking, but he tells his men to wait. Vin and Elend attack the camp of people that have been following them. It turns out to be Jastes. He’s lost control of the koloss, so he just left them. Elend kills Jastes because of his crimes against Luthadel. Vin discovers that the drumming sounds are getting softer, meaning the well is to the south, in Luthadel, and not in the Terris mountains.
Breeze works at his assigned gate, soothing soldiers by the dozen, helping them to be brave and fight well. The koloss pound at the door, while men atop the wall rain arrows down on the attackers. The koloss throw rocks up in return, smashing archers. Meanwhile, Vin runs towards Luthadel, burning pewter. She knows she will run out of pewter long before reaching Luthadel, and she wonders if the effect will kill her. But still she keeps running. Breeze and Clubs talk while the koloss continue to beat the gate. They blame themselves for being stupid enough to be in this mess, and they blame Kelsier for getting them into such responsibilities. Just then, the gates burst open. Meanwhile, Sazed gets word that Breeze’s gate had fallen. He doesn’t think he can really help. He notices that there is a crowd of skaa standing behind the defense force. When Sazed confronts them, telling them that they should flee to safety inside the city, the skaa answer that they are there to witness the fall of the koloss at the hands of Vin, who they are sure will return and make her appearance at Sazed’s gate. Then the gate breaks. Sazed musters his stored strength, growing in size, and faces the lead koloss, shouting for the men to fight. Vin, half collapsing and out of pewter, reaching a small village. At first she thinks to ask for pewter, but then she remembers how she used to travel with Kelsier on a path of metal bars in the ground. She asks for horseshoes, using them to “walk” by leaping, placing horseshoes ahead of her and pulling the ones behind to place further. In this way, she uses the horseshoes like stilts to help her travel in the air.
Outside Luthadel, Straff Venture sees that the koloss have now broken into the city gates. His men are ready to attack the koloss from the rear, but Straff decides to wait longer. Sazed, fighting the koloss, realizes that they need to get the gate closed again in order to survive. Using strength and weight, he manages to fight off the koloss and get the gate closed again. While getting a little break, a messenger comes and says that Tindwyl’s gate fell over an hour ago. Meanwhile, Clubs and Breeze are attacked and forced to run. Clubs is killed, while Breeze hides in a building. Dockson contemplates the root of their failure. He attacks a koloss, only to be cut down. Straff decides not to swoop in a save the city while the koloss are weak. Instead, he’d rather wait for the koloss to kill everyone and burn the city. Then Straff will move in. Meanwhile, Sazed fights on, wondering what happened to Tindwyl. He feels he is going to die, but then Vin arrives and starts killing koloss. Breeze is found by Ham and some others. They want to try to escape.
Vin continues killing koloss, several at a time. Sazed, outside Lord Penrod’s keep, begs the newly appointed king to go with them as they try to escape. Penrod insists on staying inside his keep. Vin continues to fight the koloss, but now she is almost completely out of pewter, steel, and almost every other metal. In desperation, to save some skaa from certain death, she super-soothes them, like she’d done to TenSoon, controlling the koloss with her mind. Sazed is standing outside Penrod’s keep when Vin walks up with koloss in tow. She orders Penrod to gather his men and put out the fires in Luthadel. Vin will take care of the koloss throughout the city. Later, Sazed finds Tindwyl’s dead body among the slain soldiers. He feels that all the faith, all the religions, he has always treasured is now useless. His life, he believes, has been a sham.
Straff wakes up and takes a sample of the drug he needs to stay alive. He gathers his men, expecting to be able to take the city now. But the koloss come out with the remaining soldiers of Luthadel. Vin jumps from among the koloss, sailing through the sky with a giant sword, cleaving Straff and his horse in half on impact. Allrianne watches these events from her father’s camp. She charges after them to help Luthadel’s army, forcing her father and his men to ride after her. Straff’s army surrenders, and Janarle, Straff’s general, is named the new Lord of the Venture army. Janarle, Penrod, and Cett all swear loyalty to Elend as their Emperor. Vin, needing rest, leaves Sazed in charge of the Empire until Elend can return to Luthadel.