“Every question I asked implied that the creators of the atomic bomb had been criminal accessories to murder most foul.” Chpt. 18, p. 39The narrator, Jonah, is interviewing Dr. Asa Breed of the Research Laboratory of the General Forge and Foundry Company about the origin of the atom bomb. He is a reporter, but he cannot keep his tone neutral as a reporter should.
“New knowledge is the most valuable commodity on earth. The more truth we have to work with, the richer we become.” Chpt. 18, p. 41
Dr. Breed defends the scientists’ pursuit of pure research in the Lab because knowledge itself of any kind is valuable. Jonah does not agree with him, feeling that moral knowledge must inform the nature of the projects studied and the ends of science.
“Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God." Chpt. 31, p. 63
This is a saying of Bokonon, the prophet who started his own humanist religion. He implies that people do not always know where they are going. There are cosmic plans for everyone; therefore, when the cab driver takes a detour to the grave marker store, it turns out to be fortuitous for Jonah to go with him.
“Busy, busy, busy is what we Bokononists whisper whenever we think of how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is.” Chapt. 32, pp. 65-66
This is one of the famous understatements of Bokonon, repeated whenever Jonah finds damning evidence of human ignorance and depravity. In this case, he reflects on the coincidence that Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite, awards the Nobel Prize to scientists who invented the atom bomb.
“I had a Bokononist vision of the unity in every second of all time and all wandering mankind, all wandering womankind, all wandering children.” Chpt. 34, p. 73
Jonah has a vin-dit or mystical experience in the tombstone store when he realizes he was led there to discover a stone angel his grandfather had ordered for a family grave. The whole novel is a journey of discovery to the interconnectedness of the apparent unrelated events of life.
“. . . everywhere we went we found Hoosiers in charge of everything.” Chpt 42, p. 90
Hazel Crosby, the wife of the bicycle manufacturer, is obsessed with being from Indiana and connecting with other people from Indiana, like Jonah. She boasts that in their travels she and her husband found Hoosiers in high places. Bokonon calls identifying with a false group like Hoosiers, “granfalloons.” People who are spiritually connected for a purpose may be more diverse but are joined in a significant group, a karass, like Jonah and the Hoenikkers.
“Americans are forever searching for love in forms it never takes, in places it can never be. It must have something to do with the vanished frontier.” Chpt. 44, p. 97
This sentence was written by Claire Minton, the wife of the American Ambassador to San Lorenzo. She got her husband fired as a diplomat for writing this in an article. She was trying to explain that Americans are not always loved abroad in other countries and should not expect to be. They are always looking for a new frontier to conquer.
“. . . a really good religion/ is a form of treason.” Chpt. 78, p. 173
Bokonon wrote this to explain his discovery of how to get his religion accepted by the people of San Lorenzo. He has himself and the religion outlawed.
“She adored her promiscuity; was angered that I should try to make her feel shame.” Chpt. 93, p. 207
Mona is not ashamed of engaging in boko-maru—foot rubbing to mingle souls—with anyone she sees. Jonah is jealous and wants her to only rub feet with him.
“And I flattered myself that I was going to be a firm, just, and kindly ruler, and that my people would prosper.” Chpt. 95, p. 213.
As soon as he is given the job of President of San Lorenzo, Jonah is seduced by the illusion that he alone can right the wrongs of the world once he is in power.
Cat's Cradle: Top Ten Quotes