Sunday, March 30, 2008

Independent Reading Explication


In Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Vonnegut suggests that life amounts to purposelessness through John’s irrational behavior and change of tone. John begins an angry confession of his dreams when proposed with the question of finding a “neat way to die, too”(190), as the end of the world approaches with the number of known survivors dwindling down.

John’s previous calm manner of speaking, “murmur[ing] huskily”(190), changes as he “blurt[s] out [his] dream of climbing Mount McCabe with some magnificent symbol and planting it there”(190). He becomes infuriated and shows his frustration and anger through action as he “takes [his] hands from the wheel for an instant to show [Newt] how empty of symbols they were”(190). John is encompassed with the lack of symbols, of purpose, from his empty hands as he does not think logically and risks danger by removing his hands from control of the vehicle. He then further questions Newt, who he expects no answers from, yet continues to do regardless, while incorporating foul language into his repetitive questions. His tone and speech also become nonsensical, when asking “but what in the hell would the right symbol be, Newt? What in the hell would it be”(190). His anger results from the fact that he does not know what his purpose in life is. John then regains composure as he “grab[s] the wheel [of the vehicle] again”(190), and seems to have calmed down a little.

John comments on his inability to reach his goal in life, speculating that “Here it is, the end of the world; and here I am, almost the very last man; and there it is, the highest mountain in sight”(190). John laments that he is so close to finding his purpose, yet it seems unreachable. It causes him to think illogically and contradict what he has learned in Bokononism. He states that “I know now what my karass has been up to, Newt. It’s been working night and day for maybe half a million years to get me up that mountain”(190). John believes that he knows the will of God, what God’s intentions are, when claiming that he knows about his karass. He contradicts one of the first main teachings of Bokonon ,as “a person trying to discover the limits of his karass and the nature of the work God Almighty has had it do . . . are bound to be incomplete”(190), and that “anyone who thinks he sees what God is Doing”(190) is “a fool”(190).

John, despite Newt’s lack of response, continues his rant, although slowly bringing it to an end. He conveys his emotions physically as “wag[s] [his] head and nearly we[eps]”(190), ending his melodramatic confession with the question “But what, for the love of God, is supposed to be in my hands”(190). John still questions his purpose, his existence, although he already possesses knowledge through Bokonon’s teachings that it is impossible to do so. Through John, Vonnegut suggests that humans, even though they may acknowledge their inability to find purpose in life, will continue to do so, regardless. It perhaps, is in human nature, to find purpose in life. However, all effort is lost, as the world will someday come to an end, be it due to humanity’s strife in warfare, or through natural means when the Sun explodes.

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