Phil Dunphy

"I’m the cool dad, that’s my thang. I’m hip, I surf the web, I text. LOL: laugh out loud, OMG: oh my god, WTF: why the face." - Phil Dunphy

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Little Only in Size

            In Kurt Vonnegut’s book, Cat’s Cradle, the author develops a character by the name of Newton Hoenikker. Vonnegut characterizes Newt as “a very tiny young man” but “nicely scaled” and “shrewdly watchful” (111). In simple terms, Newt was a midget. After quick research on little people, I learned the unfortunate effects of dwarfism. In fact, numerous studies show that severe shortness often associates with lower income as well as reduced employment opportunities. I sympathize with Newton Hoenikker’s severe shortness and, for this reason, would like to befriend this character if I could step into the book, Cat’s Cradle. Newt proves an extremely unlucky person. His birth brought death to his mother. His father rarely talked to Newt as a young boy. Now a college aged student, Newt flunks out of pre-medical school at Cornell University. Despite flunking out of school, the midget claims that he proves “a very privileged character” (13). Although unable to follow in his brilliant father’s footsteps, Newt remains optimistic and attempts to see the benefits of failing. Also, the young man faces reality and possesses the humility to admit that he “would have made a lousy doctor” (13). Vonnegut indirectly characterizes Newt as a modest, down-to-Earth, kind boy that embraces hardships in a mature way. I cannot help but admire these characteristics in a person. Now that he lives with his older sister, Angela, I feel as though I could become that one close friend of his if I could step into Vonnegut’s novel. I again sympathize with Newt due to his relationship with his sister. Although Newt has time and time again proved himself an adult, the narrator describes how Angela implies that “Newt was…too immature to deal…with the outside world” (112). Vonnegut creates pathos towards Newt’s entire lifestyle, allowing his readers to pity the midget’s poor circumstances. The author speaks to those in contact with little people, to remind them that midgets remain as mature as any other person. I have compassion upon Newt’s character and therefore wish to become a close friend of his if I could step into Kurt Vonnegut’s novel.


  1. I have to agree with your argument because Newt Hoenikker was my favorite character from the novel. I think that Vonnegut used Newt as proof that human nature acts too critically towards any sort of inconsistency. I agree that he evokes pathos for Hoenikker, to create an indignant perspective towards those who treat him differently. Vonnegut consistently defends Newt, especially the relationship he had with his sister, Angela, who remained insensitive for "what smallness meant to [him]" (112). By portraying Newt as a victim of criticism, Vonnegut speaks to those who have felt as though they were not tolerated for their differences as well as those who inflict harsh words onto others. He encourages the victims to defend themselves and the bullies to treat everyone equally.

  2. Although I respect and even liked Newt Hoenikker for most of the novel, I think that his dealings with lifelong criticisms and hardship makes him too dark and hardened of a person for me to personally become friends with. Newt's "Cat's Cradle" metaphor seemed particularly disturbingly cynical to me, as he highlights the meaninglessness of institutions such as marriage and religion. Although he certainly has a small person charm, I do not think he would make a good and consistent friend.