Essay on Satire and Black Humor in Catch-22

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Satire and Black Humor in Catch-22

The only thing going on was a war, and no one seemed to notice but Yossarian and Dunbar. Yossarian is one of the few "normal" characters found in the books, or at least he thinks he is. As the story progresses, it appears that no one is "normal." Values either no longer apply, or do in reverse. In this backwards world of Catch-22, where everyone is crazy, Heller uses black humor and satire to make light of an otherwise dismal situation.

Satire in the book mainly attacks three general things: senior military officers, professional and business interests, and society's remarkable reliance on forms, papers, rules and regulations. The senior officers are generally trying to intimidate and persecute the soldiers, most obviously by raising the number of missions, endangering the men's lives even more (Young 2). They are very selfish and have warped ideas about what they can do and what they can make the squadron do. They only do what they have been told to do, and have very few if any original thoughts. General Dreedle, for example, tries to have Danby shot for moaning during a mission briefing while in his presence. Another example of their warped beliefs is when Lieutenant Schisskopf comes up with the idea that they could stick pegs into each man's thighs and hook them together with copper wire so that the men would march better. Captain Black starts the Loyalty Oath Crusade, in which the men have to sign loyalty oaths for practically every task they need to perform throughout the day. They have to sign oaths to get their map cases, obtaining flak suits, being driven to their planes, and even eat or get their hair cut. His theory is that the more loyalty oaths the men sign, th...

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...found in all parts of the book, they play crucial roles in making Catch-22 more enjoyable to read, and depicting the conditions felt by soldiers. Without the humor, it seems like a very disturbing and depressing tale. The characters are crazy, but we do get a good laugh at their expense. Catch-22 can be interpreted in many different ways though. What may be humorous to one person may be disturbing to another. Like any book, there is no wrong interpretation.

Works Cited

Heller, Joseph. Catch 22. New York: Simon & Schuster Inc., 1989.

Merrill, Robert. Joseph Heller. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1987.

Young, Robert M. "Deadly Unconscious Logics in Joseph Heller's Catch-22."


Magill, Frank N. "Catch-22." Masterplots. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Salem Press, 1976.
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