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A Major Major Major Major Problem: Joseph Heller's Catch 22

1832 words - 7 pages

Veterans who share their stories about war may reminisce about trench warfare, German U-boats, or mustard gas. Technology and strategies have evolved tremendously since; although trench warfare is a thing of the past, the conceptual ideas surrounding war have remained the same. Joseph Heller, WWII veteran, explains the absurdity of war in his novel Catch-22. The protagonist, Yossarian, is drafted; in his attempts to avoid the front lines he chooses the branch of the military with the longest training period, feigns ill and insanity, and outright asks to leave. All his attempts fail because of catch-22. The phrase “catch-22” has become well-known since Heller coined it in his novel. It is a situation where an attempt to escape makes escape impossible. This paradoxical dilemma is the root of all other conflicts in the novel. Catch-22 is somewhat autobiographical; Heller takes his own experiences in war and uses them to exemplify the insanity of it. Although more than fifty years have passed since Heller published Catch-22, much of his portrayal of war remains accurate. By acknowledging that there are still lessons to be learned from Catch-22, the art of war can be changed for the better.
Soldiers can become immersed and trapped in the absurdity of war. Similarly to Yossarian’s permanent entanglement in the military, soldiers today become caught in catch-22’s of their own. With the precarious economy, many soldiers have a choice; either remain in the military and get paid or come home to their families and face unemployment. Although Yossarian, couldn’t get out of the army because he was drafted, the predicament soldiers are faced with today is comparable, if not worse. While soldiers risk their lives daily, they also risk their pay daily. This mainly puts the families of soldiers in a predicament because soldiers are focused on staying alive. Heller introduces several characters that tolerate the idea of eminent death in different ways. Like most people, Yossarian and many other characters were afraid of dying. This fear drove people to two points, either they were so scared they did everything they could to prevent death, or they became fatalists who believed when a soldier was destined to die, they would. Paul Bates, a lieutenant colonel in the British army’s Royal Artillery regiment considers himself a fatalist, this shows that the mentality is still alive in soldiers. This brings up concerns; including the mental well being of soldiers and how it hasn’t seemed to change since WWII. “Lt Col Bates says other Catch-22 characters are just as recognizable,” such as Aarfy, who is very blasé about war, and Havermeyer, who uses artificial invincibility to protect himself (Brown). Of the soldiers who make excuses and mold their mindsets to adapt to war, very few speak up. Yossarian, did not like war, nor did he agree with it. Granted, he was drafted, but he was stuck like everyone else. The hostile feeling Yossarian has towards war leads him...

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