Psychology in Catch-22 Essay

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Psychology in Catch-22

Catch-22 is a black comedy novel about death, about what people do when faced with the daily likelihood of annihilation. For the most part what they do is try to survive in any way they can. The book begins, 'The island of Pianosa lies in the Mediterranean Sea eight miles south of Elba.' That is the geographical location of the action. Much of the emotional plot of the book turns on the question of who's crazy, and I suggest that it is illuminating to look at its world in Kleinian terms. The location of the story in the inner world is the claustrum - a space inside the psychic anus, at the bottom of the psychic digestive tract, where everyone lives perpetually in projective identification, and the only
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The intensity and complexity of the nurse's anxieties are to be attributed primarily to the peculiar capacity of the objective features of her work situation to stimulate afresh these early situations and their accompanying emotions' (Lyth,
1959, pp. 46-7). There are such nurses in the perverse world of Catch 22. They tend the Man in White, in plaster from head to toe, arms and legs encased and extended. Those whose job it is to tend him routinely take the bottle of plasma going in and the bottle of urine going out and change them round: there is no difference between nourishment and waste, introjection and projection; fair is foul and foul is fair.

Bion describes the church and the army as exemplary organisations for embodying the pathology of group relations. Pianosa is an Army Air Corps base, run by mad, ambitious officers, reeking of arrogance and sycophancy, for whom success and failure are the only measures of worth (p. 262) and survival is always at risk. Their survival in career terms is maintained at the expense of the literal survival of the officers and enlisted men who lie below them in the military hierarchy. The hierarchy includes General Dreedle, who is astonished to learn that he cannot have anyone shot who irritates him (pp. 218, 279), General Peckem, head of Special Services, who cares only for bureaucratic power in the table of organisation and thinks it eminently rational that combat operations should come under his

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