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Essay on Lack of Meaning in Catch 22

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Lack of Meaning in Catch 22

Most of what we say has no meaning. This idea is supported on every page of Joseph Heller’s Catch 22. Almost every scene in the novel contains dialogue where the people speak aimlessly and have no explanation for why they are talking.

Colonel Cargill addresses his men by saying, "You're American officers. The officers of no other army in the world can make that statement. Think about it." Even though the remark is true, it has no meaning. These type of random statements and dialogues occur throughout the whole book. Another situation when two people speak without making any sense is when Clevinger is being questioned. "I didn't say you couldn't punish me," said Clevinger. "When?" asked the colonel. "When what, sir?" "Now you're asking me questions again." "I am sorry, sir. I'm afraid I don't understand your question." Later in the interrogation, the colonel is so twisted in his conversation that he no longer wants to know when Clevinger said that he could not be punished. He now wants to know when Clevinger did not say that he could not be punished. Clevinger quickly rebuts and states, "I always didn't say you couldn't punish me, sir." Finally, the colonel is satisfied with that answer even though Clevinger's statement did not answer the question and has no meaning.

Major Major often spoke with a lack of meaning. He simply did not make sense. For instance, he told Sergeant Towser, his assistant, "From now on, I don't want anyone to come in to see me while I'm here." According to this statement, when would anyone be able to see him if they could only go to his office when Major Major was out? When Appleby once went to see Major Major, he started to talk to Sergeant Tows...

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...ent wave lengths. This is seen when Clevinger is being questioned. The colonel and Clevinger are thinking so differently at the time, that there is no way they would be able to understand one another. This book definitely makes one realize how difficult it is to communicate, the problems people have trying to understand one another, and realizing that sometimes what we say has no meaning.

Works Cited:

Frank, Mike. "Enos and Thanatos in Catch-22." Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Roger Matuz. Vol.11. (77-87)

Heller, Joseph. Catch-22. Detroit: Gale, 1990.

Kennard, Jean E. "Joseph Heller: At War with Absurdity." Contemporary Literary Criticism.(75-87) Ed. Roger Matuz. Detroit:L Gale 1990.

Pearson, Carol. "Catch-22 & the Debasement of Language."Contemporary Literary Criticism. (277)Matuz . Detroit: L Gale 1990.
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