My Personal Attitude to Catch 22 Novel
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller takes place in the island of Pianosa near Italy during the Second World War, in the early 1940s. The group is stationed in an Air Force base, and some of the scenes in battle are above Italian cities.
I really enjoyed this novel. Catch 22 is chocked full of irony and humor, from the paradoxical leaderships of Yossarian’s Air Force to the circular reasoning of much of the characters. Heller’s writing style is very absorbing, and he is a master in describing things in clever ways without being cliche. One example is at the beginning of the novel. Yossarian, bored with the duties of censoring letters, starts censoring the address of the letters. The narrator describes this as obliterating whole towns and cities with the “flicks of his wrist as though he were God”.
A lot of the entertaining humor comes from the ridiculous situations in the novel. For example, some of the enlisted men thought that Ernest Hemingway was a spy because their Major, Major Major, started signing letters with Hemingway’s signature him so they couldn’t be returned. Another is the subplot of the C.I.D. spies looking for traders, who end up suspecting each other of being a trader.
The narrator uses comedy outside of just plot devices as well. The narrator uses plenty of repetition, like in this exchange on page 41:
“White Halfoat would tiptoe up to his cot one night when he was sound asleep and slit his throat open for him from ear to ear. Captain Flume had obtained this idea from Chief White Halfoat himself, who did… hiss portentously that one night when he, Captain Flume, was sound asleep he, Chief White Halfoat, was going to slit his throat open for him from ear to ear.”
Like the quote above, much of the comedy is dark. A lot of this comes through the form of irony. Some of the soldiers that die throughout the novel actually enjoy the war a lot more than Yossarian, who hates it and survives. These people have all usually have strange personal reasons, like financial profit.
The novel has these this type of comedy on each page, which really appealed to me as a reader. Without the comedy, this book would have a completely different tone. We actually get a taste of that tone towards the end, where the narrator suspends comedy to focus on the death and destruction of the bombing raids on local villages.
I was quite surprised in how this book was written. I did not expect the book to be as much of a comedy as it was, especially with the dark tones of World War Two. This expectation quickly died within the first few pages.
I quite honestly do not think about class discussion or the assignment while I am reading, because I enjoy much more to focus on the book and find quotes, questions, or do the assignment later. This also keeps my interest on the book rather than the assignment. Therefore, my reading style didn’t significantly change.
Yossarian, who joined the Air Force only because he thought the war would be over by the time he became a pilot, grows more and more frustrated with the illogical bureaucracy of the leaders of the air force that refuse to let anyone take leave. Yossarian feels as though he is the only sane person in the army because he realizes how many people are trying to kill him. The novel jumps around time, sometimes recapping old stories with a much dimmer and more real tone. Yossarian finally refuses to fly any more missions and escapes to Sweden.
The central purpose of this work was to show the hypocrisy of the high ranking officials in war time and to expose the absurdity of war. This seemed to be a common trope in the war novels of this generation (starting with the lost generation after World War I, especially with books such as All Quiet on the Western Front).
This purpose was accomplished significantly in Catch-22. One does not even have to cite the historical context and reception of this book by the public for evidence. The text itself gives countless examples of the hypocrisy and absurdity of war, right up to the name of the book. The Catch-22 refers to the policy in which a man must be insane to leave the Air Force, and any man who requests to leave due to insanity is therefore sane because only a sane man would choose to leave the Air Force.
Throughout the novel, the minimum number of required missions to leave the army is continually raised to the point where the protagonist realizes he will never reach the required missions. Other hypocrisies emerge in the reading, such as the accused being denied fair trial to defend themselves because, as the accusers state, if they were innocent they wouldn’t have been accused.
The importance of this type of literature cannot be overstated. We have a lot of empirical evidence for how types of literary movements changed the stigma behind war. In World War I, for example, French troops were going into battle on horseback in full traditional military uniform. By the years soon after, they adopted the standard 20th century grey uniform. This is a parallel to the public’s opinion of war throughout the former half of the century. Perceptions that war was a place for brave men to gain honor were quickly eroded as young men were thrown into what were dubbed “meat grinders”. The public’s opinion of war were permanently shifted by battles like Verdun and the fascism in World War Two associated with wartime. I believe it is a mistake here to note only correlation between the public’s perception of war and the literary movements around them. Books like Catch-22 or Slaughterhouse Five brought the home front onto the front lines, and recorded it for future generations to see. The importance of the public realizing the horrors of war is extremely important today, where drone operations and permanent hegemony make war easily forgettable.
The ideal reader of any work is whose persuasion will be most important. Therefore, the ideal reader of this work would be anyone shielded from an ongoing war. Anyone who is in a war would already have much of the knowledge of war’s injustice having endured it, so they would obtain less unique information from reading it. The interest brought by someone ignorant of the war front but willing to learn would most likely be curiosity. The effect of the novel would be a shift of opinion on the matter of war from something honorable, or at least necessary, to something that should be avoided at all costs due to war’s inherent tragedy.
I do not think I am personally the most ideal reader of this work because I already recognize how terrible war is. I may not know it as fully as someone in a war would, but due to the internet age where information is easily accessible, I know it enough to decide that it is a bad thing. My generation as a whole, however, would be an ideal reader because many still support wars the US is engaging in (even in situations of a proxy war). The fact that some people do not even know we are currently engaged in a war because it is shielded from the American people or not officially ratified by congress means people can block it out completely, so books like this who bring it to the attention of the American people are important.
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Catch 22 by Joseph Heller takes place in the island of Pianosa near Italy during the Second World War, in the early 1940s. The group is stationed in an Air […]