Joseph Heller's narration, dialogue, and characterization in Catch-22 all create a unique perspective of war and our society's bureaucracy. The satire, sarcasm, irony, and general absurdity of the novel provide a view of the irrationality of man's behavior. The horror that is portrayed in Catch-22 is intensified by the humorous way in which it is portrayed. Distortion and exaggeration highlight the characters and scenario while magnifying the confusion. Parallel structure and repetition serve to reinforce the novel's themes.
The most important and prevalent aspects of Heller's style are satire, sarcasm, and irony. Heller pokes fun at the faults of society. At the same time, this humor emphasizes Heller's social commentary much more effectively than he could by simply coming out and stating his opinion.
Satire is particularly important in Catch-22. It is often used to highlight the idiocy of the military hierarchy. It also conveys a sense of humor that opposes and intensifies the dark seriousness of the book.
Language is also satirized when Heller makes fun of the "official" jargon used by military personnel. Sarcasm could be considered a counterpart of satire. The characters portrayed in the novel use sarcasm profusely. The author's view is made clear with the blatant sarcasm used by both Yossarian and the narrator: "...how much reverence can you have for a supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of creation?"( 98)
Irony is another important aspect of the novel. Irony is an integral part of the "Catch-22" philosophy. The irony of the "catch" is that it perpetuates itsel...
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... in the novel. For example:
"I'm cold," Snowden said softly. "I'm cold" "You're going to be all right, kid," Yossarian reassured him with a grin. "You're going to be all right." "I'm cold," Snowden said again in a frail, childlike voice. "I'm cold." "There, there," Yossarian said, because he did not know what else to say. "There, there." "I'm cold," Snowden whispered. "I'm cold." "There, there. There, there."
All of these aspects of style come together very well. They play off of each other and are combined easily and appropriately. It is this culmination of styles that makes Catch-22 so effective.
Works Cited and Consulted
Heller, Joseph. Catch-22. New York. Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.
Kennard, Jean E. "Joseph Heller: At War with Absurdity." Contemporary Literary Criticism.(75-87) Ed. Roger Matuz. Detroit:L Gale 1990.
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