Essay on Abuse of Power in Catch-22

1243 Words5 Pages
The Abuse of Power Exposed in Catch-22 In 1955, Joseph Heller wrote Catch-22. The story takes place on a small island in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Italy. As the story progresses, it follows the actions of a man named Yosarrian and his companions in his squadron. Many of the men begin with high rank and others are promoted throughout the novel. As these men come into power, one of Heller's themes is explicitly shown; as men achieve power, they become compelled to abuse it. The story begins with Yosarrian in a hospital. He is there "with a pain in his liver that fell just short of being jaundice. The doctors were puzzled by the fact that it wasn't quite jaundice. If it became jaundice they could treat it. If it didn't become jaundice and went away they could discharge him. But this just short of being jaundice all the time confused them" (7). Yosarrian is clever about how he fakes his condition and is able to stay in the hospital for as long as he wishes. The doctors in the hospital are blind to the deception and allow Yosarrian to stay. After Yosarrian realizes that he can deceive the doctors, he returns whenever he wishes to relax and escape from the war. He even kicks other patients with real conditions out of their beds. "The startled patient jumped down to the floor at Yosarrian's command and ran away. Yosarrian climbed up into his bed and became Warrant Officer Homer Lumley, who felt like vomiting and was covered suddenly with clammy sweat" (286). Yosarrian likes the way it feels to move into someone else's bed and continues to do abuse this power when at the hospital. Another hospital episode is rather frightening. Yosarrian has been wounded and is semi-conscious as he listens to two ... ... middle of paper ... ...operating, so he allows Milo to take credit for the flights of others. Milo is an example of the worst of the human spirit. His desire to make a quick buck makes him one to easily abuse his power for his own gain. To a certain extent, all men desire power. Yet how much power any man craves depends on his surroundings. In World War II, men were put into a survival of the fittest environment. For many, survival meant obtaining power in order to control their destiny. In Catch-22, Joseph Heller captured that feeling in his characters. From the absurdity of Lieutenant Scheisskopf to Milo's syndicate, Heller shows how easily men are able to abuse their power. To this day that feeling lurks somewhere inside of all of us. It is just a matter of what it takes for that need to emerge. Works Cited Heller, Joseph. Catch-22, Simon and Schuster, 1955
Open Document