Catch-22 and the Theme of Death
There are many ways for a man to die, but there is no way to bring him back after he has entered the world of dead. Catch-22 is a novel satirizing war, and because of this, it inevitably has a strong underlying theme of death. But unlike many war novels, Catch-22 doesn't use violent depictions of fighting or bloody death scenes to denounce the evils of war; it utilizes humor and irony to make an arguably more effective point. And even more importantly, Catch-22 is ultimately a novel about hope, not death. Although the inevitability of death is still a prominent motif, it eventually leads the main character, Yossarian, to realize that the desire to live is important and also that he can't simply live; he must live free of hypocrisy and oppression.
Nately's whore plays a major part in conveying the message about life and death in Catch-22, even though she doesn't become an important character until the novel nears its climax. Although Yossarian is only the messenger bearing the bad news of Nately's death, Nately's whore holds him responsible and follows him back to Pianosa in an attempt to murder him. Yossarian manages to repeatedly escape from her, but only as long as he continues to disobey the illogical and immoral rules of the military. When he agrees to meet with Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn, she catches him and seriously injures him. This may imply that by submitting to the oppression of the bureaucratic military system, Yossarian is only headed towards death and disaster. And in the midst of Yossarian's final revelation and his decision to desert the military, Nately's whore was hiding behind a door, ready to stab him. But ...
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...but the desire to live is the most important impulse a man can have. But Yossarian can't live a life of hypocrisy or oppression under the military; this is what finally pushes him to desert. The knowledge that Orr finally paddled all the way to Sweden gives him hope, and he sees the only path he can take to be free. He knows it will be difficult, but he knows there is no alternative for him.
Although Catch-22 is a novel about war, it is not only about death. The message it ultimately conveys is one of hope. Yossarian finally realizes that the basic instinct to survive is the most important quality of a man, and that he must follow his impulse and escape from the military, which will only lead him to his death. Catch-22 may allow the military to do whatever the people can't stop it from doing, but it can't destroy hope.
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