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Themes of Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt vonnegut and Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

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Themes of Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt vonnegut and Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

In the books, Slaughter House 5 by Kurt Vonnegut and Catch 22 by Joseph Heller there

are many themes that at first don’t appear to be related but once given a closer look have

striking similarities. Both books are about one mans experience through World War II,

one being a fighter pilot and another being a soldier. Each man is known as an anti-war

hero. They do not agree with the war and do not find it appropriate to fight for it.

Neither of the two men was the average “John Wayne” war hero that fights and dies for

his country. This is what makes these two books stand out from other war books. Both

of these books also were used during the Vietnam War as anti-war books denouncing the

war.

One major theme that comes up in both of these books is the theme of no free will.

In Slaughterhouse 5 Vonnegut proclaims through the narrator that there is no such thing

as free will and that all things in life are predestined. That no matter what we chose to do

we really aren’t choosing to do it at all and that the choice was already made. In Catch 22

the theme is the same just brought to our attention in a different way. Catch 22 is a

paradox, leaving no way of escaping from a dilemma. No matter what we do or say we

can’t escape it thus leaving us with no free will. Catch 22 is best described in the book

when Yossarian states, You don’t have to fly anymore missions if you’re crazy, but you

have to ask first and if you ask than you’re not crazy because anyone that wants to get out

of combat is not crazy (Heller 46). The utter simplicity of this “catch” at one-point makes

Yossarian let out a whistle. So in essence both of these characters are plagued with the

fact that they have no free will. Billy Pilgrim because everything in life is predestined so

he has no say in what goes on and Yossarian because he has to keep flying more missions

because of Catch 22.

Another major theme that comes across in these books is the anti-war hero. Both

main characters are the exact opposite of what we would consider war heroes. Yossarian

has no intention of laying down his life for his country and thinks anyone that would is

utterly stupid. He many times in the book tries to get out of flying more missions by

admitting himself to the hospital although he is not sick and ...

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ridiculousness of war. They were written to share with everybody that sometimes it isn’t

the soldier who kills the most enemy or the pilot who bombs the most targets that are the

heroes of the war but it is those people that stand up and proclaim the utter stupidity of

war. The heroes are those who stand up for what they believe is right even if that means

disobeying an order. These books were written most of all to share with us that war is

wrong and is a waste of valuable lives. They convinced us that all free will and sanity is

lost in war and that it can destroy men not just physically but also mentally. I think Heller

put it best when he described what Yossarian was going through when his friend was

dying in his arms,

“Yossarian was cold, and shivering uncontrollably. He felt goose pimples clacking all over

him as he gazed down despondently at the grim secret Snowden had spilled all over the

messy floor. It was easy to read the message in his entails. Man was matter, that was

Snowden’s secret. Drop him out a window and he will fall. Set fire to him and he will

burn. Bury him and he will rot, like other kinds of garbage. The spirit gone, man is

garbage
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