Joseph Heller's Catch 22

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Joseph Heller's Catch 22

Catch 22 is a satirical novel written by Joseph Heller. It is a story about American army pilots on an island near Italy in the end of World War II in 1944.

Catch 22 is a story about how the main character John Yossarian wants to get out of the army and how he tries to act insane so he can be declared unfit to fly any more missions. It is a satirical antiwar novel. It was considered very unusual and was critisised by reviewers when it was first published in 1961. It contains “black humour” because it makes fun out of the horror of war and shows how stupid some of the rules of the army are. Heller uses an unusual mix of satire, surrealism and mixes up the time line of the story with flash backs to earlier parts of the main character Yossarian’s story. The purpose of the satire in this novel is to make an anti-war statement, show how stupid some of the bureaucratic rules of the army are, to show how people can use their power to control others and also to question the meaning of insanity.

John Heller was an army pilot in real life and based his story and characters on real experiences and people. He saw the real horrors of the war and shows this in his novel. An example of how he uses satire to make an anti-war statement is in Chapter 17 “The Soldier In White” where he compares dying in style in a hospital to dying a horrible death in the war. He uses a descriptive narrative style and shows pathos in this quote :

“People give up the ghost with delicacy and taste inside the hospital. There was none of that crude, ugly ostentation about dying that was so common outside the hospital. They did not blow up in mid air like Kraft or the dead man in Yossarian’s tent, or freeze to death in the blazing summer time the way Snowden had frozen to death after spilling his secret to Yossarian in the back of the plane. “I’m cold, Snowden had whimpered. I’m cold.” “There, there”, Yossarian had tried to comfort him. There, there.” They didn’t take it on the lamb weirdly inside a cloud the way Clevinger had done. They didn’t explode into blood and clotted matter.”

In chapter 40 “Catch 22” Heller is satirizing how people in power can use their power to control others.
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