A discussion board post for English 105, Introduction to Narrative, a freshman literature course taught by Gerry Canavan, written on 19 July 2006 at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle and the Journey of the Dead Man
by Matt Wallace
Prior to starting Cat's Cradle Sunday afternoon, I had heard a blurb on a news channel about the 61st anniversary of the Trinity test. I was amused to find that the novel involved the atomic bomb, and even more when Trinity was actually mentioned. I recalled that the test site was in or near a geologic/geographic feature with a Spanish name which made reference to death. Looking in an old road atlas, I found "Jornada del Muerto" next to the White Sands Missile Test Site which contains the Trinity site. My most minimal Spanish proved inadequate, so I googled the name. I found the phrase on the Los Alamos National Laboratory web site [History: Building the Atomic Bomb: Trinity]. They translate it as "Journey of the Dead Man"; I suppose "Journey of the Dead" would also be accurate. The name struck me as appropriately foreboding.
On the same page, Kenneth Bainbridge, the director of the test site, referred to the detonation as "a foul and awesome display." Also, demonstrating his obvious and delightful lack of Oppenheimer's poetic pretentiousness [see below], he declared, "Now we are all sons of bitches."
J. Robert Oppenheimer, in an much later, probably 1960s, television interview, commented, "I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita ... 'Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.'" This interview was included in a video we had watched in class.