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

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

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 ...

... middle of paper ... the
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

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