Thoughts of Death in Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

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How does Joseph Heller show his own thoughts about death through his main character Yossarian? The quest for immortality is a common theme throughout literature. However, in Catch 22, death is the reccurring theme. Joseph Heller illustrates how precious he values life through his main character's obsession with death. After experiencing many tragedies, Yossarian becomes obsessed with the concept of his own mortality, fighting harder to stay alive. Heller’s explicit descriptions of horrific events come together to form one overall picture of death itself. With Yossarian’s obsession and Heller’s explicit descriptions, Heller reveals his own thought on the preciousness of life. One of the biggest reasons Yossarian is so aware of his own mortality, is the fact that he goes through many terrible tragedies. From going to war, to seeing his own friends die brutally, Yossarian has had a close experience with death. These experiences turn into paranoia. Yossarian becomes so much more aware of his own life that he expectantly waits for signs of death. Heller writes, "[Yossarian] wondered often how he would ever recognize the first chill, flush, twinge, ache, belch, sneeze, stain, lethargy, vocal slip, loss of balance or lapse of memory that would signal the inevitable beginning of the inevitable end" (Chapter 17). Yossarian is constantly aware of his own mortality. He consciously looks for signs of his inevitable oncoming death. He becomes paranoid with the fact that he may die at any moment. It scares him that there are numerous things that could kill him. Heller writes, " There were billions of conscientious body cells oxidating away day and night like dumb animals at their complicated job of keeping him alive and healthy, and everyone... ... middle of paper ... ...he can highlight the fact that life is a beautiful thing. Throughout the whole entire novel Heller shows how easily a human can die. This aids him in his idea that human life is a miraculous precious gift. The theme of death in Joseph Milton’s Catch-22 is one many can relate. War veterans from all around the world can relate with Yossarian and his obsession with death. After so many tragedies, one realizes that death can come any time. Joseph Milton explicitly shows this. That is the reason why Milton deems life so precious. This novel is deserving of high literary merit because it has a theme applicable to many different people from many different times. Whether it is a revolutionary war veteran, or a World War II survivor, they could all relate to Yossarian’s fear of his own mortality. Work Cited Heller, Joseph. Catch 22. Paris: B. Grasset, 1985. Print.
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