“The Mind Reels.” in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle

Our journey through Cat’s Cradle leads us through Ilium, New York where we meet Dr. Asa Breed, Director of the General Forge and Foundry Company.  This is one of the locations where the atomic bomb (which killed well over 100,000 people in Hiroshima alone) was developed.  Breed begins by describing the town of Ilium as a “family town”, which is “very wholesome”.  He points out that the Research Laboratory is located near where public hangings used to take place.  He shares with “Jonah” (the narrator) a story –

“There was a man they hanged here in 1782 who had murdered twenty-six people.  I’ve often thought somebody ought to do a book about him some time.  George Minor Moakely.  He sang a song on the scaffold.  He sang a song he’d composed for the occasion.”

“What was the song about?”

“You can find the words over at the Historical Society, if you’re really interested.”

“I just wondered about the general tone.”

“He wasn’t sorry about anything.”

“Some people are like that.”

“Think of it!” said Dr. Breed.  “Twenty-six people he had on his conscience!”

“The mind reels,”  I said.

Hiroshima victim.

Hiroshima victim.

 (from Jacob Dresch in Inspiration)

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