by Kurt Vonnegut
Analysis: What's Up With the Ending?
Seriously, what's is up with the ending? When we first read it, we turned the page expecting a 128th chapter or epilogue. Nope. Our edition didn't even have a blank page, just the inside of the back cover mocking us. So, how do we wring out some meaning from this particular cliffhanger?
Let's start with a quick recap.
While John and Newt are driving, Newt mentions that maybe John could "find some neat way to die" (126.7). John mentions his dream about climbing Mount McCabe but doesn't realize what he should bring with him. Then John spies Bokonon sitting on the side of the road and writing the last sentences of The Books of Bokonon. They read as such:
If I were a younger man, I would write a history of human stupidity; and I would climb to the top of Mount McCabe and lie down on my back with my history for a pillow; and I would take from the ground some of the blue-white poison that makes statues of men; and I would make a statue of myself, lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who. (127.9)
Of course, there are clues as to what happens next. John is the narrator of Cat's Cradle and narrates the story after the fact. From this, we can assume the book we just read is the "history of human stupidity" Bokonon suggested. And if John took that much of Bokonon's advice, a reasonable chance exists that he followed the rest of it, too. He's probably a statue on Mount McCabe—though, to be fair, we can only say this speculatively.
But then what about the rest of that stuff? What does it mean? Good question and it's one nobody can answer with any certainty. We can guess, but our guess is as good as anybody's.
For our money, John's committing suicide by becoming a "statue" acts as a type of monument. John literally turns himself into a symbol of human stupidity. Remember: Mrs. Crosby wanted to place the American flag on top of Mount McCabe, so this is clearly the place where monuments/symbols should go.
As for the thumbing of the nose at "You Know Who," in truth, we don't know who "who" is. God? Fate? Oblivion? Humanity? The World? But if Bokonon believes in any of these, then why did he base his religion on lies instead of on the force he believed in? And how does this change our view of religion as a theme for the entire novel?
Okay, our minds are starting to hurt with all the possibilities here, so we're going to pass this one off to you. What do you think is up with the ending?