You can’t stop flying unless you’re crazy; you cannot not stop flying if you’re sane; and the only people who want to fly are crazy. This absurd logic, hilarious at first, is the root of Catch-22, and is but one such absurd joke among many in the book. In Catch-22, Joseph Heller employs comedy to illustrate how initially comical characteristics can, when pulled to the extremes, lead people to enact cruelties. Many of the most memorable moments of Catch-22 are indisputably hilarious. One such example is Colonel Cathcart, an indecisive squadron leader obsessed with his own self image. Plagued by constant doubts about his every choice, Colonel Cathcart oscillates rapidly and randomly between relying on his subordinate Colonel Korn for advice …show more content…
Colonel Cathcart’s manipulation of the finish line is funny until the moment we realize the body count left behind by his petty ambitions. As the number of missions drags on, characters disappear one by one until the main character, Yossarian, is almost entirely alone. Clevinger, Orr, Dunbar, Dobbs, Kid Samson, McWatt, and Hungry Joe all disappear. By the end of the novel, half of the named characters are dead, and there’s no better culprit than Colonel Cathcart. Rather than a slapstick comedy, Cathcart’s constant raising of the number of missions takes on a Sisyphean edge. On a lesser scale than Colonel Cathcart, the same pattern of surface-level comedy turning disturbing is present with Aarfy. Aarfy is initially played as a good-natured, if mischievous, man. Sure, Aarfy is a complete disaster of a navigator, a characteristic that is played for laughs when Aarfy navigates them into extreme danger repeatedly. Although Aarfy seems to only befriend Nately in hopes for a job offer after the war, Aarfy still seems virtuous when he expresses his refusal to take advantage of nice girls and to pay for prostitutes. Aarfy’s existence seems to be a joke made just to annoy him squad mates, and the punchline hits horrifically when Yossarian discovers Aarfy raping a maid before killing her to silence her. When questioned on his actions, Aarfy repeats his previous statement of never paying for sex. Thus concludes the joke, and the reader is …show more content…
In retrospect, Colonel Cathcart’s blatant goalpost manipulation isn’t funny anymore once you consider that all the deaths it causes had no other reason than pointless posturing. In fact, upon seeing its results, his actions are sickening. When has it ever been funny to give soldiers hope of returning home just to snatch it away? Why were we laughing at this tragedy? The darker implications of Cathcart’s actions reflect twistedly on the humor of those first scenes. These cherished, humorous moments of the book cannot be laughed at anymore without a sense of unease. This evolution of scenes is especially clear with the novel’s name. The Catch-22 in the beginning is but a series of elaborate and absurd paradoxes. Yossarian cannot go home until he reaches the required number of missions, but the required number of missions always increases. It’s impossible to enter Major Major’s office if he’s in it, but you can talk to him in his office when he’s not in the office. The initial uses of Catch-22 is that of a comedic device that revels in the absurdity of the world. Our ability to twist logic for our own means entertains us in the novelty of what can result from it. As the book draws to a close, however, Catch-22 starts being used with a distinctively different connotation, shown when Yossarian escapes to Rome. There, upon entering the
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Yossarian's most startling glimpse into the terrors of war and death comes when he spends a night alone on the streets of Rome. He sees homeless children; he witnesses men beating children and dogs, a rape, and a convulsing soldier; he walks over a street littered with broken human teeth. This is one of the rare sections of the novel that does not use humor to point out the cruelty and inhumanity of the world. The scene comes to a climax when Yossarian returns to his apartment and discovers that Aarfy has raped an innocent maid and then thrown her out his window, leaving her dead on the sidewalk below. Then, ironically, Yossarian is arrested for being in Rome without a pass and Aarfy is given an apology for the disturbance, his hideous crime going unpunished. This chapter is when Yossarian begins to really recognize the true face of the military and the meaning of Catch-22; when he goes to the brothel and the old woman tells him that the girls have all been kicked out of their home by soldiers, she explains to him that "Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing" (417;Ch.39). Catch-22 is the justification for every wrong the military commits, and it overrides every other moral law. The horrors that the military creates will never stop, and Yossarian begins to realize that he cannot fight and die
The novel, rather than describing a complete lack of order, has characters trying to give meaning to events around them. This reinforces the theme of absurdity by strengthening the impact each instance of absurdity has on the novel. The film overlooks this through an overall lack of explanation, resulting in the overall theme of absurdity being collectively, less meaningful. By blatantly introducing absurdity, and attempting to understand the lack of reason, the novel provides a deeper understanding of the theme of absurdity than the film.
Often times Catch-22 is characterized by a very loose grip on reality. The line between what is apparent and what is real is continually indistinguishable, even to readers. One aspect that contributes greatly to this effect is the distortion of justice and the military technicalities. In the military world created by Heller, what is written on paper is what is true, even if it can be defied by reality. Throughout much of the book, Yossarian is found complaining that there is a “dead man”(24) in his tent. When the concept of the dead man is first introduced, the readers are led to believe that there is an actual dead soldier sitting in Yossarian’s tent, which the military refuses to remove. However, later clarification shows that is not the case at all, but rather, after setting his luggage down, the soldier was killed in the air before he even got the chance to sign in. The grim irony of the situation is that according to the appearance based logic of the military, it is as if the man was never there at all, and his things can therefore not be processed. Another example of such distorted reality is found in McWatt’s
The comedy that Catch-22 brings is ironic in itself, think how can you get humor out of war which entails pain and suffering, that beats me how Heller does it but by whatever means used Heller creates a complete package of humor and real life occurrences which is a great fete in itself. "Though it's comic formula riddle, Heller's novel expresses the apparently inescapable human predicament." (Colmer 213)
Near the end of the novel the soldiers or enlisted men begin to realize a need to value life or even a mere sense of safety. This realization is something that Heller had been satirizing throughout the novel by pointing out that the enlisted men were risking their lives everyday without question for an unstable ad unjust system. How could you have extreme urge to defend your country, if you know first hand the detestable things that are done behind the scenes? It also makes it worse that Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn represent the country to many of the men .The Plot of Catch - 22 is understand what Heller meant with his use of satire and how that was significant to the book and the understanding of Yosarrian’s evolution. Heller also has themes within the novel that display different emotions; some of them are Confusion, sanity, hope and pity. Heller as do many other authors wants the reader to also feel those emotions just as the characters. Yosarrian (The main character of the story) has that affect on readers. The main reason he has that affect is because he is the character from the novel that most can relate to and because seems to be the only one to object authority at times.
Cruelty is a callous indifference to, or a pleasure in causing pain and suffering. Catch-22 is filled with cruelty. Throughout this book there are multiple examples of cruelty. Three examples of cruelty make themselves well-known in this book. War cruelty, cruelty against women, and self cruelty are the main forms of cruelty in this book. War is cruel all in itself, so the cruelty of war is prevalent in this novel. The female characters in this book are portrayed inferior to men, and the book makes them to be downgrading. As a result of the women being inferior to the men, the men treat the women cruely, and they make them seem like objects. In Catch-22 written by Joseph Heller the cruelty of war and women are awful, but self cruelty is the
He believes that his officers and crew members are insane since the officers keep increasing the number of bombing runs a person must complete before being released from duty, and his crew members all aggravate him by crashing their planes, working for both sides of the war, and trying to convince Yossarian to run more missions. Everyone at the base thinks Yossarian is crazy, but Yossarian thinks the same about everyone else. In Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, most literature critics assume that everyone around Yossarian is completely psychotic, but if one were to observe the novel from the perspective of Orr, Clevinger, or one of Yossarian’s crew members, they would realize that Yossarian could easily escape his military duty by running away on a mission rather than dealing with the bureaucracy of the military and trying to feign illness and craziness. Therefore, the author utilizes dark humor that exposes the absurdity of the war and the military, dialogue that displays the insanity between Yossarian, the officers, and crew, and the centralized biased
The most obvious form of humor used by the author shows itself as a series of outrageous statements throughout the text. While hyperbole is usually used as a way to emphasize things without taking them literally, Vonnegut uses it in a slightly different way. Instead of emphasizing a point through exaggeration, the author chooses to make literal statements that are far too outrageous to believe. For example, mental handicaps imposed by the Handicapper General are absolutely unbelievable (Vonnegut 1). In the story, George Bergeron, a middle-aged man, is subjected to carrying 47 pounds of birdshot around his neck without being allowed to release a single
Catch 22 is a story about the different personalities that can be involved in a war. Out of all the different archetypes, the three I’ve chosen are John Yossarian, Albert Tappman, and Milo Minderbinder, although, not in that order. The first character being analyzed is Yossarian, the unwilling hero of this book. Although the book labels Yossarian as the main character, he constantly tries to coward out of going to battle. The second character that will be described is Milo Minderbinder, the archetypical business person of Catch 22.He runs the camp mess hall and controls what everyone in the camp is buying, selling, and eating. Milo is constantly trying to control or manipulate the economies around him, and after he gets a large commission
As a tool for social commentary, oftentimes a writer will employ the use of a biting satire. Through precise writing and exaggerated concepts, Kurt Vonnegut is clearly a skilled user of satirical storytelling. As one of the most famous and widely read short literary tales of all time, Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron is certainly his best example in this genre. In Harrison Bergeron, Kurt Vonnegut proposes that true equality is not an ideal worth striving for, as many people believe, but a mistaken goal that is dangerous in both implementation and consequence. To achieve physical and mental equality amongst all Americans, the government in Vonnegut's short story subjects its citizens to “handicapping” through the use of crude means, such as canvas sacks of lead balls worn to impede physical ability, or more sophisticated technology, like the miniature radio used to mentally incapacitate the intellectually adept. This has rendered the dystopian future presented both bland and uneventful through its enforcement of equality for all. Vonnegut expertly engineers his story to capture the essence of an utterly broken and depressing future. Calibrating the specific aspects of literature, Vonnegut is attune with the exact parameters he so desires for his tale. Like a true master of his craft, Vonnegut in Harrison Bergeron welds together poignant imagery, vague setting, rich symbolism, and a detached tone to build a stunning tour de force of American literature.
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller, is a fictitious novel that depicts life on an American bomber squadron on Pianosa, an island off the coast of Italy, during the closing years of World War II. A bombardier by the name of Yossarian, the main character in the story, is joined by many others to create a comic drama unlike any other. But aside from the entertainment, Heller uses Catch-22 to satirize many aspects of everyday life that consist of hypocrisy, corruption, and insanity. From the laziness of policeman to the fake happiness brought about by money, the novel is painted with a great number of points targeted against the faults of modern society. However, along with these smaller targets, a majority of the Heller’s satire in the novel is
Joseph Heller's narration, dialogue, and characterization in Catch-22 all create a unique perspective of war and our society's bureaucracy. The satire, sarcasm, irony, and general absurdity of the novel provide a view of the irrationality of man's behavior. The horror that is portrayed in Catch-22 is intensified by the humorous way in which it is portrayed. Distortion and exaggeration highlight the characters and scenario while magnifying the confusion. Parallel structure and repetition serve to reinforce the novel's themes.
Joseph Heller himself was a pilot in WWII and was absolutely tormented by his experiences, just as his main character of Catch-22, Captain John Yossarian. Heller found the logic of wartime bureaucracy to be extraordinarily hypocritical. This gave birth to the concept of a Catch 22 and its suggested impossibility and paradoxical nature, as a means to outline the absurdities and flaws in the military bureaucracy and “afflict the comfortable”. A Catch 22 is basically an impossible circumstance where there is no escape from, as a result of contradictory rules. An example of the satire in Catch 22’s impossibility is displayed when Dr. Stubbs says “that crazy bastard (Referring to Yossarian) may be the only sane one left.” This quote displays an ironic tone as Dr. Stubbs contradicts himself by stating that Yossarian is a “crazy bastard” and also stating that he was the only sane pilot left. This adds to the overall idea and concept of Catch 22 and thus it creates an ironic outlet for Heller to “afflict the comfortable”. Joseph Heller also uses the turmoil between appearance and reality as a satirical technique to afflict the comfortable. An example of the blurred line between appearance and reality within Catch-22, comes in the form of the “death” of Doc Daneeka. Daneeka being a flight surgeon who hates to fly, has his own name on the passenger list of McWatt’s plane, which as a result allows him to draw his pay without ever boarding the plane. When McWatt flies his plane into a mountain
A staple of American literature for more than 50 years, Catch-22 has received both praise and criticism. A common criticism of the novel is it is “repetitious and essentially formless” (Merrill). Robert Merrill explains these criticisms and refutes them by expanding upon Heller’s logic in creating this inconsistent chronology and goes onto make further arguments regarding Yossarian’s morality. Merrill’s explanation of Heller’s structural chaos as an intentional act is accurate. Throughout the novel, events such as Snowden’s death and Yossarian’s time in the hospital are repeated multiple times. This repetition serves to convey Heller’s darkening tone as the novel progresses. For example, Snowden’s death is described differently each of the three times it is mentioned. The first time, Heller keeps the
Even though this is such a great model of black comedy, Joseph Heller said that he was not aware that it would be funny when he wrote it (Catch-22, Computer). In the story, Catch-22 is a military rule that employs circular logic. An example of this is the rule that deals with avoiding combat missions: